Statewide communication drill for Virginia Defense Force in Lynchburg

Equipment helps communities maintain communication during a disaster

LYNCHBURG, va. – Battalions of the Virginia Defense Force came from across the state to train in Lynchburg Saturday. It's all to make sure the soldiers are prepared at a moment's notice to respond with communication equipment during an emergency.

The VDF is a group of volunteers who supplement the Virginia National Guard during an emergency, and now they're testing out a piece of equipment at the armory in Lynchburg that could help them do just that by relaying both voice and data throughout the state via radio signals.

Soldiers say, in the event of an emergency, the radio equipment is the last means of communication.

"If the internet goes down, the telephone system goes down, it doesn't make any difference. we bounce signals off the ionosphere and can talk anywhere we want to," said Communications Battalion Commander Randy Lilly. 

Anywhere, including the eye of the storm.

"During Hurricane Isabel, the trailer behind me here was deployed... and provided communications support where there was no communication for the national guard and some of the state assets," said 4th Regiment Commander Philip Smith.

 The comm-trailers run off generators, and Lilly says in addition to voice, they can even transmit documents over the airwaves. It's technology that local sheriff's departments rarely have. 

"It's really beyond the scope of what they budget for, so the state of virginia defense force... help with emergency communications organizations that can deploy at a moment's notice," said Lilly.

Lilley says, regular training on the equipment is important, because it's always getting better.

"Eventually we'll get the data speed up to where it will be comparable to at-home internet speeds," said Lilly.

The Defense Force also says this communication equipment is especially important to Southwest Virginia because of the many rural areas with bad cell phone service that may need immediate communication during an emergency.