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In February 1980 the 285th Combat Communications Flight (CMBTCF) was established with the enlistment of five personnel and the appointment of one officer and was federally recognized on 7 May 1980. With this federal recognition, the Virgin Islands Air National Guard was born. Three years later, the Virgin Islands activated the Territorial Headquarters of the Virgin Islands Air National Guard on 1 April 1983, with one officer and one enlisted member assigned who served on the Adjutant General’s staff.
Groundbreaking for St Croix ANG Station at Estate Manning Bay began in July 1985. The $1.4 million dollar, hurricane resistant facility was completed and dedicated as the St Croix Air National Guard Station in October 1986 and was expanded in 1997 to accommodate the growth within the organization and in July 1996, the 285th Combat Communications Flight became the 285th Combat Communications Squadron. In March of 2014, the 285th CBCS entered into the conversion process to become the 285th Civil Engineering Squadron (CES).
The VIANG is composed of two organizations; JFHQ-Air and the 285th CES. The mission of the JFHQ-Air is to serve as the Air component command element for the VIANG and is responsible to the Adjutant General (TAG) for commanding, controlling, and supervising all Territorial ANG units. The JFHQ-Air Staff provides information and evaluation, issue resolution, and action recommendations on all matters related to the Territory’s ANG forces in preparation for U.S. Air Force mobilization assignments and supporting Territorial domestic operations missions, both civil assistance and natural disaster response.
The 285CES functions as a Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) and is capable of supporting all base operating support missions at contingency operation locations. This unit provides the initial bed-down support at a bare base location, forward operating locations (FOLs) and the follow-on support for smaller scale contingencies as well as providing bed-down and sustainment support for up to 1,100 personnel and a lead aviation squadron. Prime BEEF teams are also called on to support recovery operations after a natural or man-made disaster to assess damage, mitigate hazards, provide emergency utilities, bed-down military forces and disaster victims, and repair facility damage. Prime BEEF forces have the necessary command, control and communications to support bed-down; emergency management; expedient construction; and other specialized mission areas.
Since inception, the VIANG has been involved in numerous real world contingencies and territorial missions. The Virgin Islands Air National Guard has supported the following contingency operations: Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, Operation UP HOLD DEMOCRACY, Operation JOINT FORGE, Operation SECURE TOMORROW, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The VIANG plays a vital role in supporting the government of the Virgin Islands in time of natural disaster and has provided support in the after math of Hurricane Hugo (1989), Hurricane Marilyn (1995), Hurricane Bertha (1996), Hurricane Hortense (1997), Hurricane Georges (1998), Hurricane Lenny (1999), and Hurricane Omar (2008).
The unit received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (AFOUA) in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1995 through 1997 inclusive. In 1991 the unit also received the coveted Harold M. McClellan Trophy for communications electronics in the small unit category.
As we move into the future, the VIANG will seek opportunities to train and provide support to the local community. We will continue to integrate with our J-Staff counterparts to ensure we are planning and training to meet the needs of the territory as well as supporting the defense of our nation.