The Virginia National Guard demobilized the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters providing aerial fire suppression support to the Virginia Department of Forestry and began training Soldiers and Airmen for possible ground firefighting support Nov. 11, 2023, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia.After Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency Nov. 6, 2023, aviation crews assigned to the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division deployed to Madison County with two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with 660-gallon water buckets and remained through Nov. 9. Two helicopters flew missions in Patrick County Nov. 11. In Patrick County, aviation crews made a total of 21 drops of nearly 13,900 gallons of water. In Madison County, they made 33 drops of nearly 22,800 gallons of water. “Our helicopter crews mobilized and deployed in record time to provide additional resources to help the Virginia Department of Forestry in the fight against multiple large wildfires,” said Brig. Gen. Todd H. Hubbard, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff. “Our partner agencies depend on the VNG to rapidly respond with requested capabilities when needed, and we are really proud of how quickly and safely our Soldiers responded.” Approximately 30 VNG Soldiers and Airmen conducted the field day exercise portion of S-130 Wildland Firefighter Training with the Virginia Department of Forestry Nov. 12 at Fort Barfoot, Virginia, after a day of online training. During the exercise, they received their personal protective equipment, and the training stressed safety and also focused on basic tools, familiarization with bulldozers and engines, fireline construction and proper fire shelter use. Once their training is complete, the troops will deploy where needed by DOF for ground support. “The Soldiers and Airmen coming together to train for a possible ground support mission are from Virginia Army and Air National Guard units across Virginia, to include our 12M Army fire fighters assigned to the Fort Barfoot Fire Department,” Hubbard said. “I am sure they are going to be a welcome sight to the crews who have been fighting wildfires for weeks, and we expect them to provide additional capabilities to allow some people to rest or help speed up the effort to finish getting the fires under control. It really is an honor to work with such dedicated professionals towards a common goal.” Additional Soldiers and Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force and Virginia Department of Military Affairs employees are providing operations center, administrative, logistical and public information support in Richmond and Fort Barfoot. “We owe a special thanks to the loved ones of all our personnel who are on duty as well their employers,” Hubbard said. “Without their support, we would not be able to accomplish our mission.”
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