Gov. Justice announces West Virginia National Guard to host regional disaster training exercise in 2021

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Today, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the West Virginia National Guard will host Vigilant Guard 2021 – a major regional full-scale disaster training exercise – next August at the Hobet All Hazards Training Center.

The goal of Vigilant Guard is to improve the coordination, operational relationships, and response plans of agencies across West Virginia and several other nearby states in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.

“I’m extremely proud that West Virginia has been selected as the next host of this crucial emergency response training program,” Gov. Justice said. “I know in my soul that the exercises that will be done here will safeguard people and save lives in our state and many others.

“I’m also proud because this is another example of West Virginia being on the national stage,” Gov. Justice continued. “By hosting this program, we will be able to showcase our world-class Hobet training facility like never before and that will lead to even more opportunities down the road, bringing all kinds of economic goodness to southern West Virginia.”

The nine-day exercise will be conducted in coordination with United States Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Training scenarios will involve land-based and airborne operations across a wide scope of disaster-related mission requirements, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) operations, advanced medical response, and Search and Rescue activities.

Participants in the exercise will include local, state, and federal government agencies, professional public safety agencies, volunteer public safety and disaster groups, and military units from throughout FEMA Region III; which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Other organizations from as far away as Massachusetts have already signed on to participate.

The exercise is expected to draw more than 1,000 participants to the Rock Creek Development Park, located on the former Hobet mining site situated in Boone and Lincoln counties, providing significant economic impact to the area. The Hobet All Hazards Training Center is expected to generate additional economic impact over the coming years as more military units and civilian organizations book the facility for training purposes.

“Disaster operations are a critical part of the Guard’s National Homeland Defense mission,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “When disaster strikes, we all work in a collaborative, whole-of-government environment to respond to the needs of those impacted. Working proactively with our regional partners, learning each other’s capabilities and operational structures, and building trust prior to a large-scale disaster is fundamentally important so we can respond as quickly and effectively as possible.

“Being able to host this exercise in West Virginia, showcasing our own unique facilities and capabilities for our regional partners, while also giving our folks the practical hands-on experience of leading such an important exercise is a phenomenal opportunity and one we are very much looking forward to,” Hoyer added.

While primary activities for Vigilant Guard 2021 will occur at the Hobet site, additional venues around the state may be added to increase training opportunities and operational capabilities during the exercise, depending on the chosen disaster scenario and the total number of participants.

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