92nd MEB essential to the 29th ID says Maj. Gen. Whittington

Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington Jr., (left) commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, visits with Brig. Gen. Juan J. Medina Lamela, (right) the Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard. Whittington traveled to Puerto Rico to meet with Soldiers of the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during their annual training at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Rosado-Resto, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office)

Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, examines a map of Puerto Rico presented by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jose Ramon Garcia, Puerto Rico National Guard Aviation, during an Operational and Safety Briefing of aviation operations in Isla Grande, PR prior to his visit of Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center in Salinas, PR (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Rosado-Resto, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office)

SALINAS, Puerto Rico — Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, visited the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Puerto Rico National Guard, during the 92nd MEB annual training at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in July 2014.

“The alignment for training principle allows for great units like the 92nd [MEB] to integrate with a division like the 29th [ID]. We are able to benefit from the talents that come from both organizations and it’s absolutely essential to the longevity of the Guard units,” said Whittington.

The visit is part of a newly resuscitated partnership between the 29th ID and the 92nd MEB that originally began shortly before 9/11, but that later disintegrated.

“We had an ongoing relationship until about 2006, at which point it was lost,” said Lt. Col. Narciso Cruz, commander of the 92nd MEB.

Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington Jr., (right) commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, visits with Soldiers of the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during their annual training at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center. Whittington traveled to Puerto Rico to emphasize the partnership between the 29th ID and the 92nd MEB. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Rosado-Resto, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office)

Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington Jr., (right) commander of the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia National Guard, visits with Soldiers of the 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during their annual training at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center. Whittington traveled to Puerto Rico to emphasize the partnership between the 29th ID and the 92nd MEB. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Rosado-Resto, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office)

The partnership is crucial to the success of the 92nd MEB due to the budgetary cuts and military unit realignments in a time of Iraq and Afghanistan military deployment drawdowns. The 29th ID also benefits from a wide range of capabilities that the 92nd MEB offers.

“The 92nd MEB’s mission is key because it goes along with my vision for the PRNG, that not only we have to deliver as citizen-soldiers committed with the community in Puerto Rico, but we also have to be prepared for the moment when the President of the United States mobilizes our Soldiers during war or peacetime,” said the Adjutant General of the PRNG, Brig. Gen. Juan J. Medina Lamela.

The key to survival as an MEB depends on its relevancy. Otherwise, there is a possibility of disbanding the MEB into separate units, as it was before, and would hinder its ability to support divisions.

“I need to do my MOS [military Occupational Specialty] supporting divisions, which is what I do in war,” said Cruz. “They are closing 16 MEBs. We survived that cut.”

The 29th ID also receives the benefit of having additional support from the 92nd MEB, that can cover a wide range of occupations such as communications, engineers, infantry, military police, explosive ordnance disposal, divers, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives enhanced response force packages (CERFP), and a brigade support battalion.

“I believe the talents that the 92nd [MEB] brings to bare are essential to the 29th [ID] success,” said Whittington.

For Cruz, it is not only important to train, but to be successful in combat. The training opportunities should be shared with those who will also perform synchronized duties if activated for a state or federal mission.

“We understand that we can help each other out,” said Cruz.

Recently, Cruz and several members of the 92nd MEB command staff attended the Operation Caspian Strike Command Post Exercise held at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. , in June 2014. The 92nd MEB has also been mobilized to support operations in the Horn of Africa, Kosovo, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Honduras, has conducted security support at the second presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama, and collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigations during explosive ordnance disposal missions.

“I [command] a combat unit. I need to align myself with people who are combat-ready,” said Cruz.

Whittington, whose accolades include recently serving as director for the International Joint Command Staff of the Afghan National Security Forces Development/International Security Assistance Force, and who has also commanded at the battery, battalion, and brigade levels, is pleased with the partnership.

“I look forward to continue strengthening our relationship,” said Whittington.

Plans are underway for a series of joint exercises that cover areas of Domestic All Hazards Response Teams, Warfighter Exercise, and a command and control Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Elements exercise in the upcoming years.

The 29th ID partners with National Guard units located in Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Virginia to provide mutual support to major training events and operations while it waits on official word of a codified, formal relationship between the units.

The 92nd MEB is composed of the Headquarters Company, 92nd Signal Company, 192nd Battalion Support Brigade, 190th Engineer Battalion, 65th Infantry Battalion, 1600th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 124th Military Police Battalion, and 482nd Chemical Company. Prior to becoming an MEB, the brigade was the 92nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team primarily operated by infantry Soldiers.

Story by Sgt. Pablo Pantoja, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office