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Readiness on all fronts is focus for West Virginia National Guard at start of new year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Year 2018 will bring new deployments for members of both the West Virginia Army National Guard and Air National Guard after some of them spent the holidays overseas, according to West Virginia’s adjutant general.

“In the current world environment, we’ve always got to keep our focus on the highest levels of readiness,” said Major General James Hoyer.

Adjutant General James Hoyer

In 2017, more than 100 Air Guard members from the 130th Airlift Wing deployed in support of contingency operations for Operation Freedom Sentinel, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and Operation Inherent Resolve, focused on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

For hurricane relief in a devastating Atlantic season, 14 members of the West Virginia Army National Guard provided immediate infrastructure support after Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Both the 167th Airlift Wing with the West Virginia Air National Guard out of Martinsburg and the 130th Airlift Wing based in Charleston flew humanitarian support missions to deliver personnel and supplies to the affected area following Maria as well, according to Guard officials.

A team of five members of the 130th were in Puerto Rico for more than 30 days providing communications support.

Last January, units specialized in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives along with those trained in recovery response and incident site communications were in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Here in West Virginia, the West Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force flew more than 1,100 hours in 2017 to support counternarcotics work from law enforcement officers on local levels.

More than 50 Guard members along with firefighters from Glasgow and Clendenin are now FEMA Level 2 certified for swift water rescue as part of the West Virginia Swift Water Rescue Team which was created in response to needs discovered during the June 2016 Flood.

Additionally, the 167th Airlift Wing has fully transitioned from C-5 Galaxy aircraft to C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, Guard officials reported.

Overall, “I think it’s the new normal for the National Guard across the country and, particularly, here in West Virginia,” Hoyer said of what he characterized as a busy 2017 on many fronts.

In July, more than 1,400 military members were part of a Joint Task Force formed to support the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County.

“January of 2018 starts our planning process for the 2019 World Jamboree which will mean 40,000 Scouts from over 120 countries,” Hoyer told MetroNews.

To close the year in December, the West Virginia National Guard signed a Memorandum of Understanding with six colleges and universities for a first-of-its-kind internship program involving health science students and the West Virginia National Guard’s Fitness Training Program.

Going forward, Hoyer said, the focus of the program would be on the physical readiness of Guard members. “That helps with their mental readiness,” he said.

“We’ve always got to be prepared for the next emergency that might occur,” Hoyer said.

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