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29th Infantry Division
Known as the Blue and Gray Division, the 29th Infantry Division is an Army National Guard operational-level headquarters located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Its origins date back to World War I and is most known for its participation in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach in World War II. The 29th ID wartime mission is to provide mission command to subordinate brigades and forces tailored for an assigned mission. It is one of eight divisions in the Army National Guard.
The Virginia Army National Guard's 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and the 29th Infantry Division Band are aligned under the 29th.
The 29th Infantry Division exercises training and readiness oversight over the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Florida and Alabama, the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Kentucky and Virginia, the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team from North Carolina and West Virginia, the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade from Maryland and Virginia, the 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Alabama, the 113th Sustainment Brigade from North Carolina and the 142nd Fires Brigade from Arkansas.
More than 450 National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th ID from Virginia and Maryland, as well as Soldiers from seven other states came together to participate in a Warfighter exercise in the fall of 2019 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
These Soldiers, as well as dozens more from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- based 28th Infantry Division, the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington-based I Corps, participated in Warfighter 20-1, a culminating exercise designed to test and formally evaluate the readiness of the division staff to operate as a forward-deployed command headquarters.
Also included in the training audience was the Arkansas National Guard’s 142nd Field Artillery Brigade and 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, the South Carolina National Guard’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the New Mexico National Guard’s 111th Sustainment Brigade and the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
In March 2020 Soldiers from the 29th ID were placed on state active duty while supporting various COVID-19 response events including test sites, distribution of food and key supplies and training people how to use personal protective equipment.
Virginia’s emergency declaration March 12 activated the VNG and authorized personnel to begin coming on duty to support COVID-19 response operations. Soldiers of the 29th ID immediately began assisting with operations, logistics and medical planning with the Virginia Emergency Support Team and in multiple Virginia Department of Emergency Management regions across the state.
The VNG established three multi-function “strike teams” in the east, west and central areas of the state. A strike team is a battalion-level mission command headquarters with subordinate units with transportation and material handling capabilities as well as organic medical support. One of these strike teams was commanded by one of the division’s subordinate unit, the 116th IBCT, to assist with loading supplies and transport them where they need to go.
Maj. Gen. John M. Rhodes succeed Maj. Gen. John M. Epperly as the commander of the 29th Infantry Division on Sept. 1, 2020.
Rhodes previously served as the 29th Infantry Division deputy commanding general for operations since Sept. 12, 2018. He served in command and staff positions at every level of the Mississippi Army National Guard and served as Mississippi National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army and the commander of the 66th Troop Command prior to his assignment with the 29th.
The 29th Infantry Division assisted federal agencies in securing the nation’s capital before and during the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Soldiers of the 29th ID were among the more than 26,000 National Guard members from 50 states and three territories who were activated to support the inauguration by augmenting the Capitol Police, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Park Police and D.C. Metro Police Department.
The 29th ID leadership commanded Task Force Freedom, comprising of more than 9,000 personnel from 24 states, and was responsible for securing property at the U.S. Capitol, protecting government employees, providing logistical support, staffing traffic control points, and providing crowd management.
Virginia National Guard personnel made the transition from citizen to Soldier in a 24-hour period, some with a mere 12-hour warning before they were packing their gear, leaving family, school and jobs behind as they boarded busses. Shortly after arriving in D.C., Soldiers and Airmen started a rotating 12-hour shift schedule to provide 24-hour security details to assist civilian law enforcement in protecting property and providing a safe environment as multiple states started to fill the ranks.
According to an announcement made in February 2021, the 29th Infantry Division received a mobilization order for federal active duty in the Middle East. In spring 2021, more than 500 Soldiers of the 29th will begin a 10-month long deployment in the Central Command Area of Operations as Task Force Spartan to provide leadership, command, control, and in-depth staff analysis for Operation Spartan Shield.
This is the second time in recent years the 29th ID has deployed as Task Force Spartan with Soldiers serving on federal active duty from November 2016 to July 2017. They were the first intermediate division headquarters under U.S. Army Central Command and provided mission command for joint training exercises and military-to-military engagements with partner nations to promote regional stability and theater security cooperation.
2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment
Soldiers assigned to the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division traveled to Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic in Atlantic, N.C., March 2020, to conduct aerial door gunnery from their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Virginia National Guard flight crews trained with Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Scuba Rescue Team members on rescue hoist operations Nov. 19, 2020, in Chesterfield, Virginia.
In July 2020 Lt. Col. Matthew Lewis took command of 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division from Lt. Col. James Sheldon.
The aviation battalion also welcomed Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph R. Viera to the formation during a change of responsibility ceremony held in Oct. 2020.
Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division
Fort Belvoir-based Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division
Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment