29th Infantry Division begins mission in the Middle East

Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, 29th Infantry Division commander, and Command Sgt. Major Ronald Smith, 29th Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Major, uncase the unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Dec. 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)

Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, 29th Infantry Division commander, and Command Sgt. Major Ronald Smith, 29th Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Major, uncase the unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Dec. 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)

CAMP ARIFJAN Kuwait — The Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division assumed command as U.S. Army Central’s intermediate division headquarters, Task Force Spartan, during a transfer of authority ceremonyDec. 19, 2016, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

“Today is a watershed day in U.S. Army Central. Today the paradigm of the mission command in this theater Army changes as we install the 29th Inf. Div. headquarters as Task Force Spartan,” said Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commander USARCENT.

The 29th assumes mission command for Task Force Spartan with more than 18,000 troops supporting Operation Spartan Shield and theater security cooperation in U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. More than 450 Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers from the 29th are postured and prepared to conduct contingency operations and command forces throughout the USARCENT area of operations.

Operation Spartan shield is a combined forces contingency operation designed to deter and react to possible threats within the region.

“The work you do to build readiness with your units and with our allies and partners to build capacity, understanding, interoperability and trust is critical to any future fight. Readiness is everything in our business, it is and will always be our priority,” said Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, 29th Inf. Div. commander.

While USARCENT will still retain oversight of OSS, this transfer of authority will allow them to be more flexible in commanding other operations and missions throughout the region.

“The establishment of Task Force Spartan, as a tactical command for OSS, permits USARCENT to fully focus on our operational level theater wide responsibilities,” Garrett said.

Task Force Spartan is comprised of five brigades, which provide fire support and maneuver capability to the region while training alongside numerous partner nations to improve interoperability and cohesion.

“We must all be ready to fight together should the need arise and our operability must be as seamless as we can make it because when the time comes we will be in it together shoulder to shoulder with our friends throughout the region,” said Ortner.

This is the first time the 29th Inf. Div., headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, has been a part of Third Army since 1944, when the unit was aligned under the command during World War II and advanced into France and Germany.

Story by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman, U.S. Army Central

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