NEWS | Dec. 29, 2021

West Virginia National Guard highlights 2021 accomplishments

By Edwin L. Wriston

The West Virginia National Guard closed out 2021 with numerous significant accomplishments that included homeland and disaster response missions, deployments around the globe, and sustained activation to help West Virginia combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2021 was a year full of challenges and missions, both at home and abroad that our National Guard members completed with distinction,” said Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, the Adjutant General of the WVNG. “Our entire One Guard continues to prove themselves as a truly premier organization around the world. I couldn’t be more proud of all that was accomplished over the last 12 months and look forward to the future successes we will see in 2022.”

Throughout 2021, the WVNG maintained an aggressive domestic operations tempo with State Active Duty missions responding to winter storms and flooding events in the Mountain State. Aviation team members assisted wildland firefighting efforts in California and the west coast. The Guard stood up teams for potential deployment to support hurricane and tornado relief efforts, mobilized troops in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration and security for the National Capital Region, and continued the ongoing important work of counter drug efforts and southwest border security support. Members of the Critical Infrastructure Battalion conducted more than 140 critical infrastructure and port security assessments around the United States. The Regional Training Institute, located at Camp Dawson, supported the training of approximately 119,000 military and civilian personnel for the year.

Working with other military agencies, first responder groups, and higher education and private sector organizations and partners, the WVNG participated in numerous high-profile exercises. These included the international cybersecurity exercise Locked Shields, the national-level air mobility exercise Sentry Storm 2021, the national-level reserve component readiness exercise Northern Strike 2021, and hosted a large-scale national-level disaster exercise Vigilant Guard at the West Virginia All-Hazards Training Site, located in Clay and Nicholas counties.  

The WVNG continued to support youth of the Mountain State and help mold future generations through expansion of the Future Leaders Program, a high school-based leadership program to seven counties and fourteen schools across the state, provided hands-on and virtual learning opportunities to nearly 1,500 students through the STEM-based STARBASE program in both Charleston and Martinsburg, and continued the incredible success of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy, graduating the first class of cadets from the new MCA-South campus and surpassing 5,000 graduates from the MCA program since its inception in 1993.  

Economic development efforts continued with the additional expansion of the Patriot Guardens program, the Muddlety Apple Project, and celebrating the graduation of 39 participants through various courses in the Jobs and Hope West Virginia program.

On the international stage, more than 400 members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard deployed around the world. Units mobilized in 2021 included the 111th Engineer Brigade; 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne); Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion; 130th Airlift Wing and 167th Airlift Wing. The WVNG celebrated the 25th anniversary of our State Partnership Program relationship with Peru while assisting with COVID-19 expertise, and participated in a symbolic signing ceremony to celebrate the West Virginia-Qatar partnership while also providing expert advice for planning of the 2022 Arab and World Cups.

Leading from the front during perhaps the Guard’s most significant mission of the year, the 167th and 130th Airlift Wings were instrumental in the United States’ withdrawal of forces out of Afghanistan. In total, the Martinsburg-based unit completed 14 sorties over 13 days carrying 37.7 short tons of cargo and 1,224 passengers. Five total Security Forces Phoenix Ravens from both units helped to secure aircraft access on the ground and for flight crews through flight deck denial procedures that ensured the safe evacuation of personnel out of Afghanistan. In Kuwait, the 111th Engineer Brigade designed and constructed “Freedom Village,” a holding and processing encampment which supported 5,000 vulnerable Afghans in Kuwait. The 111th planned and oversaw the village construction to include constructing lodging, medical, dining and in and out-processing facilities, and further assisted the out-processing of over 5,400 Afghans through the village, including issuance of Special Immigrant Visas, as well as providing command and control, medical, logistical, and public affairs support.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 global pandemic continued its worldwide impacts, the WVNG remained engaged across West Virginia delivering personal protective equipment (PPE), providing testing, and helping to organize and facilitate vaccine distribution. The Guard remained engaged on all fronts of the pandemic response throughout 2021.

Significant WVNG accomplishments in 2021 include:

  • The entire West Virginia National Guard surpassed recruiting and retention efforts with each of the Army and Air National Guard units exceeding 100 percent end strength for 2021.
  • The West Virginia National Guard mobilized more than 400 Soldiers to provide support for the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.
  • More than 400 members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard deployed around the world. Units mobilized in 2021 included the 111th Engineer Brigade; 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne); Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion; 130th Airlift Wing and 167th Airlift Wing. Deployments included Operations Freedoms Sentinel in Afghanistan and Inherent Resolve in Iraq, Atlantic Resolve in Europe and Allies Welcome in the United States.
  • The 167th and 130th Airlift Wings were instrumental in the United States’ withdrawal of forces out of Afghanistan. In total, the Martinsburg-based unit completed 14 sorties over 13 days carrying 37.7 short tons of cargo and 1,224 passengers. Five total Security Forces Phoenix Ravens from both units helped to secure aircraft access on the ground and for flight crews through flight deck denial procedures that ensured the safe evacuation of personnel out of Afghanistan.
  • The West Virginia National Guard hosted Exercise Vigilant Guard, a national-level exercise that provides large-scale disaster response training sponsored by U.S. Northern Command, which boasted more than 300 military, local, state and federal agency participants.
  • 130th Airlift Wing aircrews flew 617 sorties, logged 938 hours, hauled 148.5 tons of cargo and 1,471 passengers during the past year. The unit also accepted 4 new C-130J-models while transitioning 7 of the former C-130H aircraft to other units in the Air National Guard.
  • The 167th Airlift Wing aircrews flew more than 680 sorties and aircraft maintainers logged more than 43,000 man-hours supporting a wide range of regularly scheduled channel missions and operational necessity airlift missions.
  • The 167th Airlift Wing received an overall rating of effective” as part of the Air Mobility Command Inspector General on-site Unit Effectiveness Inspection capstone event.
  • Spec. Alex Gravely a combat medic in the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment, competed in the Army National Guard’s National Best Warrior competition in Arizona against 12 other of the best Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers in the Army National Guard.
  • 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment participated in Exercise Northern Strike 2021 and was one of two artillery battalions to provide demonstrations for First Army, National Guard Bureau and U.S. Army Futures Command.
  • West Virginia National Guard Soldiers provided State Active Duty response for Winter Storm Shirley, flooding in various areas of the state and sent Soldiers from Company C, 1-150th Assault Battalion to California to provide support to various agencies battling wildfires.
  • Camp Dawsons Training Center supported the training of approximately 119,000 personnel for the year.
  • During the 2020/2021 school year, seven counties, fourteen schools and approximately 913 students participated in the Future Leaders Program. FLP students graduated with a 100 percent success rate, logged 800 hours of community service and had 18 students join the military.
  • The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academies in Kingwood and Montgomery reached a milestone in 2021, graduating the first class of cadets from the new MCA South and surpassing the 5,000 mark of graduates from the program since its inception in 1993.  
  • The Jobs & Hope Workforce Training Program established by Governor Jim Justice graduated 39 participants through various courses including greenhouse technician and heavy equipment operator courses.
  • In 2021, the West Virginia STARBASE programs in Martinsburg and Charleston provided hands-on and virtual learning opportunities to nearly 1,500 students in Kanawha, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, including Starbase on Wheels”, with curriculum being delivered by STARBASE staff at schools.
  • The Army Interagency Training and Education Center teamed with the Defense Information Systems Agency, students from West Virginia University, the Illinois National Guard and Polish Territorial Defense Forces to represent the United States European Command in cyber security Exercise Locked Shields, the largest international cybersecurity exercise hosted by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, Estonia. The team placed fourth out of more than 30 competing nations, which is the highest placement by an American team in the history of the exercise.
  • The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Battalion conducted nearly 140 critical infrastructure and port security assessments throughout the United States and trained 9,530 personnel directly involved in the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources throughout the nation.  
  • Counterdrug Task Force aviation crews flew nearly 500 hours supporting law enforcement agencies in 93 arrests and the seizure or eradication of 270 grams of cocaine, 2,336 grams of heroin, 29,395 grams of methamphetamine, and 4,483 grams of fentanyl with a total estimated street value of more than $3.1 million.
  • Through the State Partnership Program, West Virginia and Qatar hosted a symbolic signing ceremony to celebrate the West Virginia-Qatar partnership. Additionally, West Virginia Guardsmen provided expert advice for planning of the 2022 Arab and World Cups. For the Peruvian partnership, West Virginia hosted a vaccine distribution workshop for the highest levels of the Peruvian government to assist in their preparations for vaccine rollout.
  • The West Virginia National Guard celebrated inclusion and diversity in 2021 and saw the promotion of its first female chief warrant officer 5 and first Army female general officer in the state’s history.
  • The state’s Covid-19 response continued into 2021 with the West Virginia National Guard leading the efforts for vaccine distribution, Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and PPE distribution. More than 500 Guard members remained federally activated in 2021 to provide response to the citizens of West Virginia.