CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Several hundred military personnel and first responders from across the U.S. helped launch a national-level, hands-on training exercise Thursday in West Virginia.
Gov. Jim Justice welcomed the Vigilant Guard 2021 participants by video as they began a four-day series of simulated emergencies spanning five counties and multiple scenarios. This is the first time West Virginia has hosted Vigilant Guard, co-sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau. The West Virginia National Guard and the state Emergency Management Division are coordinating the state’s participation.
Exercise activities are slated in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties. The public in these areas may notice an increased presence of first responder and military personnel, aircraft, equipment, and emergency vehicles leading up to and during the exercise.
Vigilant Guard aims to test and hone disaster response by federal, state, and local jurisdictions as well as private sector partners. This year’s exercise supposes that a hurricane has stalled over West Virginia. The resulting emergency response scenarios include a train derailment and search-and-rescue operations
“This exercise will demonstrate the incredible abilities of West Virginia’s emergency response agencies and show the world how we run to the fire,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “As I’ve said many times, West Virginia is a diamond in the rough, and we’re proud to show an audience from around the world what we have to offer. I hope everyone involved stays safe and has a great learning experience!”
Thursday’s start 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.
“While actual exercise play and operations kick off today, more than a year of detailed and exhaustive planning by Guard and EMD personnel has gone into bringing Vigilant Guard to reality,” stated 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, enhancement, and interoperability of disaster response assets across federal, state, and local jurisdictions,” Crane continued. “Working within a joint operations environment helps us all to be better prepared to protect the lives and property of our fellow West Virginians when disasters strike.”
West Virginia Vigilant Guard 2021
More than 300 military personnel, public safety first responders, private sector partners and volunteers are expected to participate in the exercise. Military delegations from Oman, Peru and Qatar, which have partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard, are also on hand for the exercise.
“We train like we fight,” 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 environment.” Vigilant Guard 2021 in West Virginia comes to a close on Sunday, Aug. 29.