V.I. National Guard conducting training exercises

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ST. CROIX - Hundreds of V.I. Air and Army National Guardsmen fanned out across the island Wednesday morning as part of training exercises that will continue through Saturday.

National Guard Spokeswoman Karen Williams said V. I. Guardsmen are ready and prepared to respond to the territory's needs, but because it is critical to exercise those capabilities they are engaging in Operation Forward Guardian over the next few days.

As part of the exercises, Williams said training operations will be set up at Camp Arawak, Altona Lagoon and in the Estate Bethlehem area.

She said the operation is one avenue to assess units and personnel with the operation providing soldiers and airmen training in a civil support role to save lives, alleviate suffering and protect property.

Military vehicles of all sizes could be seen traveling across the island carrying equipment, soldiers and supplies needed as soldiers and airmen were primarily setting up camp, receiving preliminary briefings and organizing Wednesday afternoon for the training exercises ahead.

During the exercise, guardsmen will set up field sites, perform required tasks, and react to no-notice scenarios, Williams said.

Maj. Gen. Renaldo Rivera, the Adjutant General of the Virgin Islands, said the intent of the exercise is to demonstrate improvement in the guard's ability to assist civil authorities in response to a natural or man-made emergency in the territory.

Last week, the V. I. National Guard held an All-Hazards Coordinating Workshop for territorial planners and federal partners to share their respective capabilities and challenges, Williams said.

While the use of military resources in disaster response efforts is always the last resort because of limits outlined in both federal and local legislation, Williams said the guard remains poised to respond at home as well as abroad.

With the training operation scheduled for the next several days, Williams said the community should not be alarmed at increased military personnel, military activities and military vehicular traffic which will be part of the training exercise. She said some of the training activities may cause noise and traffic in residential areas adjacent to the training areas around St. Croix and apologized in advance for any inconvenience.

She said motorists are advised not to attempt to overtake any of the groups of military vehicles on the roadways, primarily because the large, wide vehicles can obstruct visibility and could result in serious or even fatal collisions.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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