Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division Headquarters were recognized for their federal active-duty service June 26, 2022, in Baltimore. The Soldiers returned to the United States in late March 2022 after completing a nine-month deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as the headquarters of Task Force Spartan, which exercises command and control of Operation Spartan Shield.
“The staff of the 29th Infantry Division Headquarters spent over two years training for this mission and shortly after arriving in southwest Asia we added Operation Allies Refuge to our list of tasks,” said Maj. Gen. John Rhodes, 29th Infantry Division Commanding General. “The Soldiers of Task Force Spartan quickly adjusted to evolving requirements and executed every mission like the true professional citizen-Soldiers they are.”
Senior state elected officials including retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, and military leaders from Maryland and Virginia recognized the troops with Maryland Soldiers receiving the Maryland Outstanding Unit Ribbon and Virginia Soldiers receiving the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal.
“If your deployment was anything like what I’ve experienced, the days were long, but the months just seem to fall off the calendar,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, the Adjutant General of Maryland. “During those short months and long days, you performed magnificently. As the command element for Task Force Spartan and Operation Spartan Shield, you played a vital role in building and maintaining security cooperation with U.S. allies and partners in one of the most volatile regions of the world, where transnational terrorist and insurgent groups continue to pose a threat the U.S. and its interests.”
Gowen said that while the 29th had a full plate, world events ensured it was piled even fuller. He explained while they were flawlessly executing Bright Star 21, a major multilateral exercise involving participants from 20 different countries in multiple training events, including a command-post exercise, field training exercises, and a maritime exercise, they were called on to support Operation Allies Refuge, one of the largest airlifts and non-combatant evacuation operations in U.S. history.
“By the time the last evacuees departed Camp Buehring in August 2021, you had enabled our governmental, non-governmental, and international partners to screen, process, and care for almost 5,000 evacuees, while providing more than 132,000 meals, 5,500 medical screenings, and the delivery of two babies,” Gowen said. “And then you immediately pivoted to assuming responsibility for the Afghan evacuation at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where you continued to support the safe resettlement of Afghan evacuees. It’s not an exaggeration to say that were it not for you and the troops overseen by the 29th, the Afghan evacuation mission couldn’t have succeeded.”
Gowen presented the U.S. Department of State Honor Award to Brig. Gen. Joseph Reale, 29th Infantry Division Deputy Commanding General, for his service as the Task Force Spartan deputy commander in support of Operation Allies Refuge from Aug. 25, 2021, to Sept. 6, 2021
The award citation read “Your exceptional leadership, strategic planning, and synchronization of Kuwait, joint, coalition and intergovernmental organization efforts to support the largest non-combatant evacuation airlift in U.S. history let to the successful evacuation of over 6,800 American citizens, other country nationals and Afghanistan civilians. Signed Joey R. Hood, Acting Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.”
Reale said it was quite an honor to get recognized by the State Department, but he said it wasn’t his award, it was an award for the 29th.
“It was a whole team effort,” he said. “It took everybody in this room to do their job and beyond to get it done.”
Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the Virginia National Guard Land Component Commander, thanked each and every one of the 29th ID Soldiers for their hard work and perseverance.
“You couldn’t possibly have envisioned how events in Afghanistan would unfold and impact the environment, and I can only imagine how difficult and challenging that pivot was, but you crushed it,” Gallagher said . “You behaved like seasoned warriors. You kept moving forward, and in the end, you got it over the goal line, which is a testament to your strength and determination. Not just as a team, but as individuals. When you look back at it you realize you have written a new chapter in the very long and very distinguished book of the 29th.”
Virginia Delegate David Reid presented Rhodes with a Virginia House of Delegates Joint Resolution 268 commending the 29th Infantry Division, and he also helped present medals to Virginia Soldiers.
“Thank you very much to the 29th Infantry Division for everything you have done in your 105 years of service, not just in World War I and World War II, but all the different conflicts you have been involved in for what would now be five generations,” Reid said. “It is a stellar history.”
Before presenting the resolution, Reid read the last three paragraphs of the resolution:
WHEREAS, to the men and women who have served and sacrificed as members of the 29th Infantry Division, the Blue and Gray represents what can be achieved when people of different backgrounds put aside their differences for the good of the nation and the defense of American ideals at home and abroad; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, That the 29th Infantry Division hereby be commended for more than 100 years of service to the Commonwealth, the United States, and free people throughout the world; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Major General John M. Rhodes, commanding officer of the 29th Infantry Division, as an expression of the House of Delegates’ admiration for the division’s rich history of accomplishments and appreciation for the importance of the Blue and Gray as a symbol of liberty, solidarity, and commitment to service.
Read the full resolution at https://ngpa.us/20370
The Maryland Outstanding Unit Ribbon is awarded to subordinate units of the Maryland National Guard for demonstrating outstanding unit readiness
requirements and for outstanding performance in support of “real world” contingency missions.
Created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner, the Virginia Governor's National Service Medal recognizes the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal duty since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The awards were presented during the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Weekend hosted by the Virginia and Maryland Family Program Offices to help Soldiers and families find resources they might need after the deployment.
“Reintegration following deployment is a critical time for members of the National Guard. Unlike active duty units, most of our members are not concentrated on and around large military bases, and Yellow Ribbon events are essential to connecting our soldiers and their families with the access information on health care, education and training opportunities, financial, and legal benefits to which they are entitled,” Gowen said.
He thanked Soldiers for attending the event.
“The information shared with you today will help ensure that your military and civilian lives and careers continue their upward trajectory for years to come,” he said.
About Task Force Spartan:
Task Force Spartan is a unique, multi-component, total Army organization, made up of active Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve support units and is led by a National Guard division headquarters on a rotational basis.
In its role as Task Force Spartan, the 29th ID commanded two brigades and four battalion-level task forces. Units supporting Operation Spartan Shield provide capabilities such as aviation, logistics, force protection and information management. They also facilitated theater security cooperation activities such as key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, symposia, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response planning.
Established in August 2016 with the first deployment of the 29th ID to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, the purpose of Task Force Spartan is to establish a continuous U.S. military presence in southwest Asia that is built upon the execution of joint-interoperability exercises with partner nations from the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility is among the most dynamic regions in the world. Networks such as Daesh, al-Qaeda, and affiliated groups continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests and partners. The volatile state of the region requires the U.S. to prepare the environment as much as possible to protect U.S. national interests and those of our partners.
Read more about the 29th’s accomplishments during their deployment at https://ngpa.us/20300