COLCHESTER – Hundreds of Vermont National Guard members are preparing to be deployed between October and the first half of 2021. In addition, 250 leave in early August for a two-week training exercise in Wisconsin.
“Much of the training exercises outside of Vermont have been significantly altered or canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, but our deployments have not,” said Capt. Mikel R. Arcovitch, public affairs officer for the Vermont National Guard, at a news conference Friday.
Deployments were first announced in the fall of 2019.
October: Deployment of 70 airmen
Col. David Shevchik, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, responsible for 950 airmen, said more than 70 airmen will be deployed starting in October 2020.
They will “deploy overseas in the U.S. Air Force Africa, Europe and Central Command’s areas of responsibility” for “expeditionary support combat operations overseas,” Shevchik said.
Those being deployed are among the 158th Fighter Wing staff, mission support group, and the medical group — including those trained in logistics, civil engineering, communications, contracting and finance, support and services, supply, ground and air transportation and medical career fields.
They are expected to return from deployment in summer 2021.
“This is what we train for, this what we prepare for,” Shevchik said. “We are eager and ready to answer the call to serve.”
Early 2021: Deployment to include 350 Vermont soldiers
During first quarter of 2021, more than 500 soldiers from a Task Force of 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Division will be deployed to the U.S. Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility for Operation Spartan Shield, said Lt. Col. Matt Wingnall, the unit’s commander.
Nearly 350 soldiers come from units in Vermont, while 150 combined soldiers come from New Hampshire and Maine. The task force will be the first of multiple units to deploy in 2021 as part of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The deployment is expected to be about 12 months.
The battalion has been engaged in routine deployment readiness training in Jericho the last couple months.
Wingnall couldn’t say the exact location where soldiers will be deployed.
“Make no mistake, we are deploying to a combat zone,” Wingnall said.
Early 2021: Deployment of 34 military law enforcement officers
Lt. Col. Doran Metzger, commander of the 86th Troop Command headquartered in Williston, said the unit will deploy more than 30 soldiers to the U.S. European Command for 12 months as part of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
Metzger said the unit’s mission has shifted from that of a combat military police to mirror more of a civilian police officer. The unit is commanded by a New Hampshire state police officer, and 11 of the 34 soldiers deploying are law enforcement officers at the state or local level, Metzger said.
The unit just completed a 15-day annual training including readiness for their upcoming mission.
These soldiers will deploy in the first quarter of 2021.
Nearly 1,000 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers are expected to begin one-year deployments the first half of 2021 to various locations as part of the “largest Army mission set in over ten years,” according to a press release from the Guard. Friday’s announcement is the first wave of the 1,000 deployments.
August: 250 airmen attend training in Wisconsin
In addition to deployments, Col. David Shevchik announced that in early August, about 250 airmen from the 158th Fighter Wing will travel to Wisconsin for a two-week training. It will take place at the Volk Field Air National Guard Base for an exercise known as “Northern Lightning.”
“This exercise will place emphasis on the 158th Fighter Wing’s ability to employ fifth-generation aircraft and combat-based training scenarios at a tactical level, readying our team for real-world missions when deployed,” Shevchik said.
“As you can imagine, executing this training mission during a pandemic requires a bit of extra planning.” Shevchik said they will follow federal, state and local guidance to mitigate transmission of COVID-19, including staying in pods they arrive with throughout the training.
There will be no F-35 flying operations at the Vermont Air National Guard base from August 8 until August 20.
The National Guard has supported the state of Vermont in pandemic response efforts and said it will continue to do so through deployment if needed.
2018:Vermont National Guard’s medical unit departs for Middle East deployment
2016:Vermont Air Guard deploys 300 airmen, squadron of F-16s to join fight against Islamic State
2015: Vermont Army National Guard to deploy five members to Africa
2015: Vermont Air National Guard deploys 150 airmen, to 10 F-16 fighter jets to Japan
Contact April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.
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