Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division conduct civil support exercise during annual training

Col. Lapthe Flora, the training and operations officer of the 29th Infantry Division, briefs his staff Jan. 23, 2013, using the Command Post of the Future System at Fort Belvoir, Va.. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division, the unit that once stormed the beaches of Normandy, today tackled a different objective: training to deter possible assaults on a Presidential Inauguration and responding to catastrophic disasters during a four-day civil support exercise held Jan. 21-23, 2013 at Fort Belvoir.

“I am continually impressed by the Soldiers and officers of the 29th Infantry Division,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, commander of the 29th ID. “This exercise helps us prepare for any domestic emergencies that require support of local, state or federal agencies. We have rehearsed possible criminal attempts to disrupt the Presidential Inauguration along with natural disaster contingencies.”

Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, the 29th Infantry Division will be the main effort for the East Region Division All-Hazard Response Mission, or DAR-M. They will support states east of the Mississippi River and FEMA regions I-V during all-hazards events.

The six-day exercise allowed the staff of the 29th to practice procedures involving crowd and traffic control, evacuation, terrorist activities, public demonstrations, movement of supplies and security of hospitals, emergency shelters and Metro stations. The staff also received training on the Command Post of the Future, a collaborative software and computer system that allows commanders to communicate and share information with higher headquarters and subordinate units.

The communications section, led by Maj. Timothy Wine, deployed the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability to provide voice and data communications to the division’s operations center. The section operated and maintained the equipment that provided critical network connectivity to applications used during the exercise.

“The majority of our Soldiers have recently returned from federal deployments overseas and have honed the skill sets necessary for crisis management supporting civilian authorities,” said Col. Lapthe Flora, the training and operations officer for the 29th. “Real world experience has made a difference.”

Flora explained that many of the 29th ID’s Soldiers’ full-time careers complement what they do in the Virginia and Maryland National Guards. “We have Soldiers employed by federal and state emergency agencies, law enforcement, and the judicial system,” he said. “These unique experiences are a tremendous asset to our unit, and they truly represent the Citizen-Soldier concept.”

The Division All-Hazards Response Mission was developed by the National Guard Bureau to provide joint Army and Air National Guard support for significant all-hazards events. All-hazards is wide ranging definition of any natural or man-made condition that causes an actual or potential threat to people, services, equipment, or infrastructure. It provides state Adjutant Generals with operational flexibility for augmenting their existing forces in a rapid manner.

“The 29th is well-trained and properly equipped for these types of missions,” said Whittington. “We remain ready, reliable and relevant to help our neighbors if they ever need assistance.”

The 29th Infantry Division is headquartered at Fort Belvoir and is comprised of units from Maryland and Virginia.