29th ID conducts command post exercise during annual training

The 29th Infantry Division exercised their Command Post of the Future System during annual training's  “Operation Valiant Strike.” (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

The 29th Infantry Division exercised their Command Post of the Future System during annual training’s “Operation Valiant Strike.” (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT A. P. HILL, Va. — Soldiers of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division spent annual training engaged in “Operation Valiant Strike,” a test of the division’s capabilities for future combat roles. The simulation applied lessons learned from the Battle of Pharsalus between Pompey and Caesar, with the 29th ID using modern forces in the fictional countries of Atropia and Arianna near the Caspian Sea. Similar to this ancient battle, 29th ID leaders had to execute a successful feint and deception strategy rather than a direct attack.

The 29th ID has two main missions and the focus of this annual training was clearly the division’s combat role.

“Our job is to be equally prepared to conduct mission command in both domestic and Unified Land Operations, ” said Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington Jr., Commanding General of the 29th Infantry Division.

This exercise is the first Command Post Exercise conducted with a fully represented command group and staff since the re-integration of the Security Partnering Teams deployment’s to Afghanistan from 2010-2012.

“It’s an exciting time for the division,” said Whittington. “We’re spinning off from a two-year rotation and this is our reset year, and the division is mindful of its training plan and the concern is not setting the bar too high, but setting the bar too low and achieving it. After seeing the division’s solid performance at annual training, my expectation is that the bar will be raised.”

29th Infantry Division staff officers participate in the Combined Arms Rehearsal. (Photo by Staff  Sgt. Frank O’Brien, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

29th Infantry Division staff officers participate in the Combined Arms Rehearsal. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Frank O’Brien, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

The exercise was conducted using the Division’s Command Post of the Future System – a system used during the training exercise to share, transmit and analyze mission data. Information from the map was based on and reinforced by the robust databases on CPOF. The backbone of the exercise is the setup of the Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter Command Post. The DRASH is a quick-erect tent system that integrates shelter, mobility, lighting, heating, cooling and energy efficient power into one comprehensive package. DRASH is part of the U.S. Army’s Standard Integrated Command Post System and has been tested and proven to accommodate a variety of missions.“For those involved in the set-up, they understand that it is truly a team effort,” said Maj. Jimmy Sanders, a signal officer with the 29th ID Signal Detachment. “It is a complex system that requires a lot of teamwork to construct it correctly.”

After an initial combat arms rehearsal, Whittington briefed the assembled officers about his strategy and intent.

“This sounds easy on paper,” said Whittington, “but there’s lots of moving parts. For those of you who have deployed before with armor…there will be confusion, utter confusion, this has to be executed with precision. It’s a unique application of combat power to create confusion on the battlefield.”

Whittington’s strategy paid off as the 29th ID the staff was able to fix and destroy the enemy.

The division staff was joined by members of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team from North Carolina, the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Puerto Rico, 58th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, 29th Combat Aviation Brigade from Maryland, and 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from North Carolina.

“Our partnering units played an important role in the exercise and we look forward to training with them on future exercises,” said Maj. Colin Noyes, chief of operations, 29th Infantry Division.

The Caspian Sea exercise was the main focus but the Division Headquarters Battalion still found time to conduct; weapons qualification, Army Warrior Task Training, land navigation, Combat Live Saver Training, Blue Force Tracker Training and deployment of new signal equipment.

“I had several Soldiers come up to me and thank me for the training. They especially liked the Army Warrior Task Training,” said Lt. Col. David Jones, commander of the Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division.

The 29th ID is currently planning a Defense to Civil Authorities exercise this fall and two combined exercises with the U.S. European Command and U.S. Pacific Command within the next 18 months.

The 29th Infantry Division is headquartered at Fort Belvoir and is comprised of Soldiers from Maryland and Virginia. The unit was established in 1917 and recently served a two-tour rotation in Afghanistan from 2010-2012. The 29th ID is also remembered for the historic fight on Omaha Beach on D-Day.