Ortner to take command of 29th Infantry Division, Epperly to be deputy commander

Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner

Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner

SANDSTON, Va. — Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner will take command of the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division from Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr. effective July 24, 2015, according to announcement made May 28 by Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. Ortner is currently the deputy commander of the 29th, and he will be succeeded by Col. John M. Epperly, the current operations and training officer for the division. A change of command ceremony for the division is planned for July 24 at Fort Pickett, Va.

“Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner has one of the most impressive service records in the Virginia National Guard,” Williams said. “He has led Soldiers in combat at the battalion and brigade level and has extensive experience working in multi-national environments where he built successful partnerships that helped his units accomplish their mission. This is exactly the kind of officer we need to build on the outstanding leadership provided by Maj. Gen. Chuck Whittington and continue to make the 29th Infantry Division a ready and relevant mission command headquarters. Col. John Epperly brings a wealth of experience as well having successfully commanded the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team through multiple domestic response operations as well as a well-executed Warfigther exercise. The two of them will make a great command team.”

Biographical summaries:

Ortner is as 1983 graduate of University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., 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 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 more than 20 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 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Infantry Regiment 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 II. In 2007, Ortner was assigned as the deputy commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and deployed to Baghdad, 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 IBCT in June 2009. 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.

He resides in Stafford and is employed by Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington, D.C., as the Deputy Government Relations Director working with Congress to support veterans benefits and healthcare services.

—–

Epperly is a 1989 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point where received a Bachelor of Science degree in General Engineering and International Relations. He also holds an MBA in Finance from Drexel University and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College Class of 2010.

He received a Regular Army commission through West Point as an Armor and Cavalry officer and served on active duty until 1997. He joined the Virginia Army National Guard and branch transferred to infantry. He has served in numerous assignments over the last 15 years in the 116th Infantry Regiment and 29th Infantry Division to include rifle company commander, battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer and brigade operations officer.

Epperly commanded 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and later deployed the battalion in support of Operation Vigilant Relief to assist civil authorities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Following the 116th’s transformation to a brigade combat team, Epperly took command of 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry and deployed the battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under his command, the battalion was recognized with both the Reckord Trophy and Kerwin Award as the best National Guard battalion in the U.S. Army during training year 2007 as well as earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Epperly’s military education includes the Airborne School, Air Assault School, Armor Officers Basic Course, Scout Platoon Leader’s Course, Infantry Mortar Leader’s Course, Armor Officers Advanced Course, CAS3, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.

He is a resident of Fredericksburg and is employed by Digital Management Inc., in Bethesda, Md., supporting the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.

—–

Whittington, a native of Birmingham, Ala., graduated from University of Southern Mississippi in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and was commissioned via ROTC in December 1986 as a field artillery officer. He served on active duty, served in Friedberg, Germany as platoon leader and battalion adjutant. He also served as a company and battalion fire support officer attached to 4th Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment during this tour. He deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm as a platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. He taught at the U. S. Army Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Okla. from 1991 to 1992.

Whittington joined the Maryland National Guard in November 1992 and served as battery commander, brigade targeting officer, battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer and battalion commander. He served as the Chief of the 291st Army Liaison Team from May 2006 to March 2007 and was selected as the deputy commander for the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in March 2007. He deployed with the 58th from April 2007 to April 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He commanded the 58th IBCT from June 2008 to June 2010.

His military schools include the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, Field Artillery Officer Advance Course, Combined Arms Services Staff School, Command and General Staff College and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

His military awards include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leave Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Southwest Asian Service Medal with campaign stars, the Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Parachutist Badge.

Whittington is currently employed as the V.P. & CIO for the Pactiv Corporation, headquartered in Chicago, Ill.