29th Infantry Division Soldiers begin federal active duty

Family members bid farewell to Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division as they began federal active duty Aug. 1, 2016, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Family members bid farewell to Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division as they began federal active duty Aug. 1, 2016, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Senior leaders from state government and the Maryland and Virginia National Guard joined family members, friends and fellow Soldiers in bidding farewell to approximately 80 Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division as they began federal active duty Aug. 1, 2016, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers will provide mission command in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Mission command is the term the U.S. Army uses to describe the headquarters that provides direction and intent to subordinate units in order for them to carry out their mission. That headquarters also provides guidance and coordination for personnel, intelligence, sustainment and communications support.

The group of Soldiers, also known as Task Force 29, are expected to serve on federal active duty for up to 12 months.

“We have this mission because of what we have proven,” said Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, commander of the 29th Infantry Division. “We have proven it during our training, and we have proven it during the previous missions the 29th has taken on. They are trained, they are capable and they are ready. They are going overseas to make things safer for all of us.”

Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Curtis Brown, Virginia Senator Bryce Reeves, Delegate Richard Anderson, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, the Adjutant General of Maryland, and Brig. Gen. Paul Griffin, Director of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff, were all on hand with Ortner to send off the Soldiers.

“I stand here humbled and awed in my responsibility as the commander of Task Force 29,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey P. Kramer, 29th ID Deputy Commanding General – Support who will command the combined group of Maryland and Virginia Soldiers. “National Guard Soldiers have been repeatedly called upon to defend their states and nation, even before we were a nation, and they continue to answer that call. These men and women are the best that our nation has to offer, and we all owe them our deepest thanks and gratitude.”

Williams put the mobilization in a historical perspective and asked the Soldiers to keep in mind that the 100th anniversary of the 29th Infantry Division will be recognized during their deployment.

“In World War I, it was the 29th Infantry Division that set the pace,” Williams said. “Seventy-five years ago, it was the 29th that set the pace in World War II. Here we are in this global war, and I have every faith and confidence in you and that the 29th will set the pace once again. Go forward, be safe and do great things for our nation.”

Singh shared that she had deployed with the 29th on two different occasions, and said that she couldn’t think of a better division to take on the upcoming mission.

“I grew up in this division, I know you are going to make us proud,” she said. “Take care of each other, respect one another, look out for your battle buddies, just in case someone needs your assistance. That’s what it takes to get through a deployment.”

Brown thanked the Soldiers and their families on behalf of Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.

“For the 29th, our message is simple. We want to say thank you.” Brown said. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your dedication to excellence and all you do to defend the values we hold so dear. You are an elite fighting force, and the best trained and equipped in the history of the world. We know that you will be successful in all that you do.”

Soldiers conducted a short training period at Fort Pickett in early July, and they will conduct additional training in Texas before heading overseas.

This is a short notice mission to fill a capabilities gap identified by the U. S. Army and National Guard Bureau. The senior leadership of the 29th ID, Maryland and Virginia National Guard understand that a short notice mobilization creates significant challenges for Soldiers, families and employers, and all the leaders expressed their deepest appreciation for the family members and the critical support they provide.

“Your families will be cared for because they are our families as well,” Ortner promised the Soldiers. “Whatever is needed, we will provide. They will be safe with us, and they will be cared for. You do not need to worry.”

The 29th ID, Maryland and Virginia National Guard have multiple support systems in place if there are any hardships created by the mobilization, and the Family Programs Office had personnel available before the departure to help answer any questions or provide assistance.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for homeland security missions and combat operations, sustainment support and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations around the world.

The pace of federal mobilizations for the Virginia National Guard shows no sign of slowing down. Approximately 1,550 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will start, continue or complete a federal mobilization in 2016 in places like the Middle East and Cuba.

Additional information on the 29th Infantry Division:

Soldiers from 29th Infantry Division traveled to Europe to participate in Saber Strike 16 June 4-22, 2016, in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where they served as an exercise control cell and managed many of the support functions and tracking the training requirements for different units going through the exercise. They helped ensure all units met their training objectives and helped reallocate resources during the exercise to achieve training objectives.

More than 400 Maryland and Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division joined with National Guard and active duty Soldiers from around the country, as well as active duty and Air National Guard Airmen, for a nine-day warfighter exercise Nov. 13-22 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where they received high praise for their outstanding performance during the exercise.

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers in the 29th Infantry Division last served in federal active duty in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012 when they conducted two rotations assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Afghan National Security Force Development Team. During that time they served as advisors and mentors to senior Afghan leaders with the mission to provide Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police subject matter expertise to facilitate ANSF growth and development.

Prior to their service in Afghanistan, Maryland and Virginia Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division deployed overseas for peace-keeping duty in Kosovo from August 2006 to November 2007.

Formed in 1917, the 29th Infantry Division deployed to France during World War I and saw action in the First United States Army’s Meuse-Argonne offensive as part of the French XVII Corps. In World War II, the 29th Division was in the first wave of troops to storm the beaches of Normandy and begin the liberation of France.

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29th ID leads multinational exercise, Saber Strike 16 – July 11, 2016
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2016/07/11/8964/

29th ID tested at Warfighter 16-2 – Nov. 26, 2015
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2015/11/26/8338/

29th ID Soldiers return to Virginia after federal duty in Afghanistan – July 14, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/07/14/1572/

Soldiers from 29th Infantry Division return from duty in Afghanistan – Oct. 27, 2011
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/oct11/29idspreturn.html

Virginia Guard Soldiers end mission in Kosovo – Nov. 5, 2007
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/nov2007/KFORWrapUp.html