Mercer to command Va. Army Guard, Ortner named 29th ID deputy commander

LogoSANDSTON, Va. — Col. Walter L. Mercer will be promoted to brigadier general and take command of the Virginia Army National Guard from Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner effective Oct. 1, 2014, according to an announcement made Sept. 3, 2014, by Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. Ortner will succeed William R. Phillips, II, as the Deputy Commanding General of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division . Phillips will retire, as will Brig. Gen. Janice G. Igou, who currently serves as the Virginia National Guard Director of Interagency Operations.

“Bill Phillips and Janice Igou both served Virginia and our nation in a stellar fashion,” Williams said. “Each made significant contributions to Virginia National Guard domestic and global operations, and we wish them the best in their retirement.”

Igou was promoted to brigadier general Nov. 10, 2010, and commanded the 329th Regional Support Group prior to becoming director of interagency operations. Phillips was promoted to brigadier general Oct. 2, 2010, and prior to his service in the 29th ID commanded the Virginia Army National Guard and the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Ortner succeeded Phillips as the commander of the Virginia Army National Guard June 16, 2013, and previously commanded the 116th IBCT. Mercer most recently served as the training and operations officer for the 29th Infantry Division.

“Walt Mercer has successfully commanded at every level and served overseas in both peacekeeping and combat operations in Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq,” Williams said. “His sound judgment and breadth of experience will ensure that he continues to build on Blake Ortner’s great work commanding the Virginia Army National Guard. The Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division are fortunate to have an officer with the leadership credentials of Brig. Gen. Ortner.”

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Additional biographical information:

Mercer began his career as an Infantryman in the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment in 1982, before being commissioned from Virginia Tech in 1985 as a Distinguished Military Graduate and Regular Army Artillery Officer. His many assignments include platoon leader, company commander, assistant operations officer, OCS commandant, deputy information operations officer and commander of the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. He was selected to be the first commander of the newly formed 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment and led the unit during a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait from 2007 to 2008. Mercer also commanded the 91st Troop Command prior to his assignment as the operations officer for the 29th Infantry Division.

Mercer is a graduate of the Airborne School, Infantry Officers Advanced Course, Combined Army Staff Service School, Command and General Staff College, the Resident U.S. Army War College and the Information Operations (FA 30) Course. He holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College, as well as a Masters in Educational Administration from VCU. His assignments include Germany, Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait as well as numerous locations throughout the Virginia Army National Guard.

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Phillips was promoted to brigadier general Oct. 2, 2010, and took charge of the Virginia Army National Guard after commanding the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from February 2008 to June 2009. He commanded the 116th IBCT HQs during an eight-month deployment to Iraq from June 2007 to February 2008 as the Joint Area Support Group in downtown Baghdad. The Joint Area Support Group controlled and coordinated all security and infrastructure for the Multinational Forces – Iraq and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s International Zone (better known as the Green Zone). The headquarters also tracked operations for two subordinate battalions and two separate companies assigned to the 116th operating elsewhere in Iraq and Kuwait.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1975 as a military police Soldier. He served in this capacity until 1979 when he enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard as a communications specialist. In 1980 he attended Officer Candidate School at the New Jersey Military Academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant Aug. 31 1981.

Phillips commanded Company C and the Headquarters Company of 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and also served as the battalion logistics officer, battalion operations officer, executive officer and eventually battalion commander. He also served as executive officer of 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division and deputy commander and commander of the 116th Brigade Combat Team.

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Igou graduated from Longwood College, Farmville, Virginia, in 1984, with a BS in Business Administration. She received her commission through ROTC as a Quartermaster Officer and subsequently began active duty which included training and assignments at Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Leavenworth, and an overseas tour at Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan.

Igou left active duty, returned home to the Richmond area and joined the Virginia National Guard in 1991. She has served in numerous leadership positions including Commander, 429th Support Battalion (Forward), Staunton; Assistant Chief of Staff, G4 – Logistics, 29th Infantry Division (Light), Fort Belvoir; Commander, 329th Regional Support Group, Virginia Beach; G4 – Logistics, Virginia Army National Guard, Fort Pickett; and J8 – Resource Management, Joint Forces Headquarters, Sandston.

As the Director of Interagency Operations, General Igou provided oversight for all programs, policies, and procedures regarding Defense Support to Civil Authority. She served as the lead general officer for outreach to state and local leaders, organizations, and communities, as well as officials at the National Guard Bureau, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

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Ortner is as 1983 graduate of University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN where he received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. He also holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College Class of 2010. He resides in Stafford and is employed by Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington, D.C. as the Senior Associate Legislation Director working with Congress to support veterans benefits and healthcare services.

He received a Regular Army commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps as an Infantry officer and served on active duty until 1987. In 1989, Ortner joined the Virginia Army National Guard, serving in numerous assignments during over twenty years in the 116th Infantry Regiment and 29th Infantry Division to include rifle company commander, battalion operations officer, battalion commander, brigade operations officer, brigade executive officer, brigade deputy commander, brigade commander, and division operations officer. In 2001, Ortner served as the Division Chief of Operations, Multi-National Division – North as part of the 29th Infantry Division support of Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovinian.

Ortner commanded of 3rd Battalion 116th Infantry Battalion and deployed the battalion in 2004 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the first Virginia National Guard Infantry Battalion to deploy to combat since World War Two. In 2007, Ortner was assigned as the Deputy Commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and deployed to Bagdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served as a member of the Multi-National Forces – Iraq Area Support Group and later as the Chief of Operations for MNF-I. He assumed command of the 116th BCT in June 2009 and in May 2011 the Brigade Headquarters was mobilized for combat operations in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom where he commanded Combined Team Zabul which included active duty and NATO Romanian Infantry Battalions.