CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
Maj. Gen. John Rhodes, commanding general, 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard, assumed command of Task Force Spartan from Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commanding general, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, July 20, 2021. The transfer of authority ceremony was presided over by Lt. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commanding general, U.S. Army Central.
During the same ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl Plude, division command sergeant major, 29th Infantry Division, assumed responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Horn, division command sergeant major, 36th Infantry Division.
Task Force Spartan is a multi-component organization, comprised of Soldiers from all three Army components: Active Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve. Exercising command and control over Operation Spartan Shield, Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen U.S. defense relationships and build partner capacity.
“Task Force Spartan looks forward to working with the Kuwaiti Land Forces and all of our Arab Gulf partner-nations this upcoming year as we grow, build, and learn from each other,” said Rhodes.
During the ceremony, the outgoing commander and command sergeant major cased the 36th Infantry Division colors, signifying the end of their tour. The 29th Infantry Division colors were then uncased, opening a new chapter for both the division and for Task Force Spartan.
“What we will see is the foundation you have laid and now passed to the 29th, that it must be enduring,” said Ferrell, speaking of the 36th Infantry Division’s efforts during their tour. “I will forever be thankful for what you have established here.”
This is not the first time the 29th has deployed for Operation Spartan Shield. The 29th was the first to division to establish Task Force Spartan in 2016-2017.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Rhodes presented an M1918 Trench Knife as a gift to Hamilton as a symbol of his appreciation for all the 36th had accomplished. “Your efforts and contributions will have lasting impact on our partner-nations’ defense and readiness,” said Rhodes.
Both the 29th and 36th Infantry Divisions trace their histories to the European battlefields of World War I, where both divisions first saw combat during the massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive that stretched the entirety of the war’s western front.
In the intervening 100-years, both divisions have participated in a number of conflicts, including World War II, where the 36th became famed for being the first American division to reach continental Europe during the Allied landings at Salerno, Italy and the 29th for being one of the first American divisions to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
In its role as Task Force Spartan, the 29th will command two brigades and four battalion task forces. Units supporting OSS provide capabilities such as aviation, logistics, force protection, and information management, and facilitate theater security cooperation activities such as key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, symposia and humanitarian assistance/disaster response planning.