CHARLESTON, W.Va. Hundreds of service members and first responders from across the United States helped start a national practice drill in West Virginia on Thursday.
Governor Jim Justice video greeted participants in the 2021 Vigilant Guard as they began a four-day series of simulated emergencies across five counties and multiple scenarios. This is the first time West Virginia has hosted Vigilant Guard, co-sponsored by the U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau. The West Virginia National Guard and the State Emergency Management Division are coordinating state participation.
Sports activities are planned in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties. The public in these areas may notice increased presence of first responders and military personnel, aircraft, equipment and emergency vehicles before and during the exercise.
Vigilant Guard aims to test and enhance disaster relief from federal, state and local jurisdictions as well as private sector partners. This year’s exercise assumes that a hurricane has stalled over West Virginia. The resulting emergency scenarios include train derailment and search and rescue operations
“This exercise will demonstrate the incredible capabilities of West Virginia’s emergency services and show the world how we run to the fire,” said Governor Jim Justice. “As I have said many times, West Virginia is a diamond in the rough and we pride ourselves on showing what we have to offer to audiences around the world. I hope everyone involved stays safe and has a great learning experience! “
Thursday’s launch began with a simulated activation of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and its first operational report to the governor, federal and military officials, and other exercise participants.
“As the actual practice games and operations begin today, more than a year of detailed and extensive planning by the guard and paramedic personnel has gone into making Vigilant Guard a reality,” said Brig. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, adjutant general of the WVNG.
“This type of hands-on and simulated training exercise is essential to support the development, improvement, and interoperability of civil protection assets across federal, state, and local jurisdictions,” continued Crane. “Working in a joint operations environment helps us all better prepared to protect the lives and property of our compatriots in West Virginia in the event of a disaster.”
Vigilance in West Virginia 2021
More than 300 service members, public safety first responders, private sector partners and volunteers are expected to attend the exercise. Military delegations from Oman, Peru and Qatar who have partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard are also present at the exercise.
“We train like we’re fighting,” said EMD deputy director Greg Fuller. “As an emergency responder for over 30 years, there is no better way to learn than to practice in a realistic setting.” Vigilant Guard 2021 in West Virginia ends on Sunday, August 29th.