By Evan Johnson
Vermonters serving in the Vermont Air National Guard and the Vermont National Guard will see a ramping up of trainings in advance of a possible deployment in 2020, Vermont’s Adjutant General Steven Cray announced on April 13.
The announcement on Thursday morning was part of a town hall meeting presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program established to promote communication between reservists and their civilian employers. The meeting is one of five scheduled for around the state.
“What happens to the National Guard affects our community at large,” Cray said.
Command Sergeant Major Toby Quick outlined how the gradual training would progress in the coming years, beginning with small units and ramping up.
Starting this year in June, nine to 30 soldiers will travel to Fort Drum, N.Y., for a warfighter exercise that will feature computer simulations and general physical fitness training for a year total of 39 days training. That number will increase to 48 1/2 days in 2018, when 30 to 130 soldiers will travel to Fort Drum for a training program called Exportable Combat Training Capability that simulates combat environments. In May 2019, 130 to 300 soldiers will travel to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., the Army’s premier training center for light infantry and Special Forces. The total number of training days will increase to 54 days.
“For a Guard unit to do that is a lot but there’s a reason why we’re selected, we’re good,” Quick said. “We’re probably one of the best in the nation if you ask me.”
Quick said the National Guard could expect a possible deployment in 2020. The size, location and nature of that deployment remain unknown and the Guard will receive word of deployment a year in advance.
“When we know, you’ll know,” he said.
After that deployment, training days will return to 39 days.
Vermont’s National Guard includes 3,644 airmen and soldiers, 950 of which are full-time.
The Vermont Air National Guard consists of the 158th Fighter Wing, based in South Burlington with 1,000 airmen. The 229th Informational Operations Squadron is a small detachment in Northfield, Vt., with 33 members that specializes in cyber warfare. The Vermont National Guard includes the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team with 1,829 soldiers, 415 soldiers in the Garrison Support Command, Joint Taskforce Headquarters and the 124th Regiment (Regional Training Institute).
In March, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley selected Vermont’s 86th Infantry to train with the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y. as part of a new program known as Associated Units to increase the readiness of the National Guard.
Last fall before Thanksgiving, the Vermont Air National Guard deployed 310 airmen and 12 planes. . By the end of their six-month deployment, they dropped over 1,000 pieces of ordinance against ISIS in Iraq.
Vermont also is the first state to receive the new F35 fighter jet, scheduled to arrive in Vermont in September 2019.
“That’s the kind of capability that we have now in the Vermont Air National Guard.”