ANNVILLE, Pa., Jan. 29, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- In 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) experienced a strong year fulfilling its dual mission of supporting nearly 800,000 Pennsylvania veterans and providing safety and security for our commonwealth and nation.
"We had an incredibly busy and successful year, thanks to the employees throughout our agency who work hard to support the DMVA's dual mission," said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania's adjutant general and head of the DMVA. "Our focused commitment to serve Pennsylvania veterans and our communities has resulted in a number of accomplishments that we are proud to highlight."
Serving Commonwealth and Nation
In 2018, approximately 1,300 Pennsylvania National Guard (PNG) soldiers and airmen deployed in readiness and training missions to numerous locations throughout the world, including Kuwait, the Middle East, Lithuania and Southeast Asia. The PNG also supported domestic operations, deploying more than 1,000 personnel in Pennsylvania and nationally for search and rescue, communications and transportation missions during floods, snow storms and hurricanes. Numerous lives were saved and protected during these missions. August of 2018 was a particularly critical month where Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) members pulled 18 commonwealth citizens from their rooftops during extreme flooding conditions.
The PNG also had a high-tasked summer schedule when it sent over 5,000 Guardsmen to California for about a month to participate in demanding training exercises at the National Training Center in the Mohave Desert. The 56th Stryker Brigade and other supporting units were lauded by senior Army staff for their outstanding performance.
The PNG also found itself in the spotlight in 2018 after all three of its Air Force wings – the 111th Attack Wing in Horsham, the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh, and the 193rd Special Operations Wing in Middletown – received coveted Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards from the United States Air Force signifying all three units as exceptional performers.
In 2018, the PNG commemorated a 25-year state partnership with the Lithuanian Armed Forces with events hosted in Pennsylvania and in Lithuania. Other key training partnerships took place throughout the year, including those with the British Army, German Air Force, Canada's 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, and Pennsylvania civilian first responders.
Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG) in Annville, Lebanon County, continued to play a big role supporting National Guard activities as the PNG's headquarters. Known as the busiest National Guard training center in the nation, FTIG played host to more than 150,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members in 2018, the most to ever train there since its inception in 1998. Included in that training was the 2018 Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition. This prestigious national competition is a test of physical and mental ability and was held at FTIG for the first time ever.
While FTIG is well known for its training activities, the installation also received the 2018 Secretary of the Army Natural Resources Conservation Team Award, for its conservation efforts to protect 17,000 acres while running a high-volume military training facility.
Serving Pennsylvania Veterans
With nearly 800,000 veterans, Pennsylvania has the fourth largest veteran population in the country. The DMVA works feverishly year-round to connect veterans to the earned benefits and services they may be eligible for because of their service to our country.
To connect with veterans one-on-one about their benefits, the Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) mobilized its outreach vans and participated in 107 events statewide in 2018. The OVA also focused on educating veterans with unique needs, partnering with the Women's Veterans Committee of the Governor's Advisory Council for Veterans Services to host a series of statewide town hall and expos for women veterans and their families; and collaborating with the Department of Corrections to hold 10 outreach events with incarcerated veterans at various state correctional facilities.
Partnering with community organizations in 2018, the OVA issued 12 Veterans' Trust Fund (VTF) grants to Pennsylvania county Veterans Affairs Offices and 18 charitable or veteran service organizations, totaling $800,000. The VTF grants help create or expand programs throughout the state to meet emerging needs of veterans and their families. OVA also distributed another $800,000 to needy veterans through the Veterans Temporary Assistance Program which is also funded through the VTF.
The DMVA Bureau of Veterans Homes continued its effort to raise awareness of its six long-term care veterans homes, holding a series of well-attended open houses last year. The public was invited to visit the homes, take a tour, meet the staff, participate in activities and experience the camaraderie of living with fellow veterans. The DMVA provides residency to more than 1,300 eligible veterans and their spouses throughout the commonwealth at the six veterans homes located in Erie, Hollidaysburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Spring City.
"I am extremely proud of the entire DMVA team and the great things we were able to accomplish over the past year," said Carrelli. "We have raised the bar of service every year for our veterans and our communities and look forward to continued successes in 2019."
MEDIA CONTACT: Joseph Butera, 717-861-2178
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs