NEWS | Nov. 1, 2016

29th Infantry Division departs for federal active duty

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Virginia and Maryland government officials and national and state military leaders joined family, friends and fellow Soldiers in sending off the 29th Infantry Division as they departed for federal active duty Oct. 30, 2016, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. More than 450 Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th are mobilizing for duty in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, and this will be the largest number of troops they have led since World War II.

“Thank you to the Soldiers who are before us today,” said Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, commander of the 29th. “You have stepped up on short notice to take on a critical national requirement. This is a tough day with some fears and concerns, but know that we are well trained, we are ready and we can do what is needed and do it well.”

Ortner credited the quality of the Soldiers of the 29th and their willingness to accept the most challenging tasks for their selection for the mission, and he expressed thanks to the Army leadership for having confdience in the 29th ID.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Chief of National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel and Director of the Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy joined military leaders and state elected officials from Maryland and Virginia in sending off the Soldiers of the 29th and extended special thanks to their families and employers for their critical support of the mission.

“Everytime you answer the nation’s call, you leave behind your families, your job, your daily lives,” Lengyel said. “I have to thank the families. They simply cant do it, they can’t help keep America safe without the love and support and sacrifices that you make.”

He also thanked the employers for the contribution they make to the security of the country by supporting the members of our National guard.

“Our business model in the reserve component simply does not work without the support our of employers,” Lengyl said. “I know you will get back a motivated employee, a leader in your organization, someone who makes your business work better.”

Lengyl acknowledged the rich history of the 29th and the importance of the mission the Soldiers are about to begin.

“It is no small task to walk in the footsteps of the 29th Infantry Division,” Lengyel said. “You are going to write another great chapter in the deployment of this organization that is going to contribute to the warfight and the security of the nation abroad. The 29th will oversee the presence in the middle east at a critical juncture at a time in the region, and we face these challenges knowing that the National Guard is the best it has ever been.”

The Soldiers conducted training at Fort Pickett for about two weeks prior to the departure ceremony, then they will train for approximately 30-45 days in Texas before they head overseas.

While based at Fort Belvoir, Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division live all throughout Virginia and Maryland.

Operation Spartan Shield is a CENTCOM operation focused on maintaining U.S. forces within theater in order to execute any number of contingency plans. It further enhances relationships and interoperability with regional partners through the conduct of bilateral and multilateral security cooperation exercises.

U. S. Central Command directs and enables military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional security and stability in support of enduring U.S. interests and is responsible for U.S. security interests in 20 nations, stretching through the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia. Read more about CENTCOM at

U.S. Army Central conducts shaping operations in the U. S. Central Command area of responsibility to deter adversaries in order to reassure and enable partners, while sustaining ongoing U.S. operations in established Combined Joint Operating Areas. Read more about ARCENT at

Mission command is the term the U.S. Army uses to describe the headquarters that provides direction and intent to subordinate units in order for them to carry out their mission. That headquarters also provides guidance and coordination for personnel, intelligence, sustainment and communications support. USARCENT shapes the CENTCOM area of responsibility in order to support operations against extremists, assure access, build partner capacity, develop relationships, and deter adversaries while providing a mission command capability that can set the theater and execute unified land operations in support of Combatant Commander requirements.

Theater security cooperation is focused on maintaining or improving relationships with countries within the CENTCOM area of responsibility through partnering in exercises that promote military to military engagements. Each year USARCENT conducts approximately 400 events in 20 partner nations. These events build trust and interoperability, and that gives the U.S. not only military access, but also business and cultural access.

Approximately 80 Virginia and Maryland Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division began federal active duty Aug. 1, and are providing mission command in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The group of Soldiers, also known as Task Force 29, are expected to serve on federal active duty for up to 12 months.

The mobilization is another example of the importance of the Guard and Reserve in the U. S. Army’s ability to meet force requirements across the globe. According to an article in the Defense News, Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of Forces Command, stressed that the Army can’t meet those requirements alone.

“It takes all 980,000 of us,” Abrams said during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting. “Now, possibly more than ever, the readiness of the Guard and Reserve is crucial.”

Last year, there were zero Army National Guard division headquarters deployed, he said. In addition to the 29th ID preparing for its deployment, the Texas National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division is preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan.

“Both the 36th and 29th Infantry Divisions are filling critical roles in support of our combatant commanders,” Abrams said.

With the additional 29th ID Soldiers, the Virginia National Guard will have more than 1,000 Soldiers and Airmen serving on federal active duty. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for homeland security missions and combat operations, sustainment support and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations around the world.

Additional information on the 29th Infantry Division:

Soldiers from 29th Infantry Division traveled to Europe to participate in Exercise Saber Strike 16 June 4-22, 2016, in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where they served as an exercise control cell and managed many of the support functions and tracking the training requirements for different units going through the exercise. They ensured all units met their training objectives and reallocated resources during the exercise to achieve training objectives.

More than 400 Maryland and Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division joined with National Guard and active duty Soldiers from around the country, as well as active duty and Air National Guard Airmen, for a nine-day warfighter exercise Nov. 13-22, 2015, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where they received high praise for their outstanding performance during the exercise.

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers in the 29th Infantry Division served in federal active duty in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012 when they conducted two rotations assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Afghan National Security Force Development Team. During that time they served as advisers and mentors to senior Afghan leaders with the mission to provide Afghan national army and national police subject matter expertise to facilitate ANSF growth and development.

Prior to their service in Afghanistan, Maryland and Virginia Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division deployed overseas for peace-keeping duty in Kosovo from August 2006 to November 2007.

From October 2001 to April 2002, the 29th Infantry Division was mobilized on federal active duty as the headquarters for Multinational Division (North), Task Force Eagle, in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the 10th rotation of NATO’s peace stabilization forces known as the NATO led Stabilization Force. Task Force Eagle provided command and control for units from the Army National Guard as well as forces from more than 11 other nations.

Formed in 1917, the 29th Infantry Division deployed to France during World War I and saw action in the First United States Army’s Meuse-Argonne offensive as part of the French XVII Corps. In World War II, the 29th Division was in the first wave of troops to storm the beaches of Normandy and begin the liberation of France.

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