Former 29th Infantry Division Commander praised during retirement dinner at Fort Lee

Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts watches as his two star flag is cased during his retirement ceremony held Feb. 10, 2013, at Fort Lee. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th ID Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts watches as his two star flag is cased during his retirement ceremony held Feb. 10, 2013, at Fort Lee. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th ID Public Affairs)

FORT LEE, Va. — More than 100 Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard and friends of Maj. Gen Frank E. Batts, the former commander of the historic 29th Infantry Division, celebrated his career with a retirement ceremony Feb. 10, 2013, at Fort Lee.

“I wouldn’t have made it this far without you,” said Batts to the assembled crowd. “I know the sacrifices you make – time away from your family – and I want to personally thank you for everything. This dinner is not for me, but for all of you.”

Batts began his military career in 1976 as an officer through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in May 2004-2005 as the Mobile Liaison Team Chief with the 54th Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters. As the 29th ID commander, he directed the deployment of two general officer-level commands to Afghanistan from November 2010 until July 2012. In that role, Batts helped grow and develop the Afghan National Security Forces.

Batts served in both the West Virginia and Tennessee Army National Guard before joining the Virginia Guard in 1985, and has held command positions from battery through division level. In his last assignment prior to taking command of the 29th Infantry Division in 2010, Batts served as the deputy commander of the 29th Infantry Division for two years.

“I’m just a simple guy who grew up just outside of Rocky Mount, N.C., working on tobacco farms.” said Batts. “When I was a platoon leader back in ’77, I never thought I’d end up commanding a division.”

Batts, a Bronze Star Medal recipient, previously commanded the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment and the Virginia Beach-based 54th Field Artillery Brigade.

Col. Tim Williams spoke of his time working as a battalion commander under then-Col. Batts.

“I paid close attention to how General Batts conducted himself and the character he displayed,” Williams said. “I quickly realized that he not only was a technical expert but a great leader. I was fortunate enough to follow him into command of the 1st battalion as he moved up to take command of the 54th. I learned firsthand what a tremendous boss he was.”

Williams said Batts was “a great coach, teacher and certainly mentor” who gave his commanders great latitude and supported us at every turn.

“At one point, I got a bit concerned that I hadn’t heard from the boss in quite a while so, during a training event I asked him directly if I was meeting his expectations,” Williams said. “He assured me I would know immediately if he had issues and not to worry … saying continue to push and do what you think is right.”

In his civilian career, Batts works as an electronics engineer at the NASA Langley Research Facility in Hampton.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, the Adjutant General of Virginia, presented Batts with the Legion of Merit.

The new commander of the 29th, Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, was present as well to honor his close friend and colleague.

“I am honored to have worked with him and to have him as a mentor,” Whittington said.