Rhodes to succeed Epperly as commander of 29th Infantry Division

Brig. Gen. John M. Rhodes

RICHMOND, Va. — Brig. Gen. John M. Rhodes has been selected to succeed Maj. Gen. John M. Epperly as the commander of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division, according to an announcement made May 22, 2020, by Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. The assignment will be effective Sept. 1, 2020.

Rhodes has served as the 29th Infantry Division deputy commanding general for operations since Sept. 12, 2018. He served in command and staff positions at every level of the Mississippi Army National Guard and served as Mississippi National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army and the commander of the 66th Troop Command prior to his assignment with the 29th.

“Please join me in congratulating this exceptional officer on his new assignment,” Williams wrote in the announcement. “Brig. Gen. Rhodes is a proven leader with a track record of excellence. We look forward to the 29th Infantry Division’s continued success under his command.”

This assignment follows Epperly’s selection as the Deputy Commanding General, Army National Guard, for Army Futures Command.

Maj. Gen. John Epperly

“Maj. Gen. Epperly’s outstanding performance during his tenure as the 29th ID’s commanding general has uniquely prepared him for this position of increased responsibility,” Williams wrote in the announcement. “I have no doubt he will continue to excel.”

A formal change of command ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2020, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

About the 29th Infantry Division:

Known as the Blue and Gray Division, the 29th Infantry Division is an Army National Guard operational-level headquarters located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Its wartime mission is to provide mission command to subordinate brigades and forces tailored for an assigned mission. It is one of eight divisions in the Army National Guard.

Its origins date back to World War I and is most known for its participation in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach in World War II. The 29th recently mobilized Soldiers to participate in Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve, both in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

The 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and the 29th Infantry Band are aligned under the 29th. The division currently has training relationships with North Carolina’ s 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team and 113th Sustainment Brigade, Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Maryland’s 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, Alabama’s 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and Arkansas’s 142nd Field Artillery Brigade.

Biographical summaries:

Rhodes was commissioned a second lieutenant, Infantry in May 1987 through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Mississippi State University.  Currently he serves as the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for the 29th Infantry Division.  Prior to transferring to the Virginia Army National Guard in 2018, he served as Mississippi National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army and the commander of the 66th Troop Command. He also commanded a Joint Task Force in response to natural and man-made contingencies in support of homeland security and defense operations.  From 2010-2013, he served as the commander of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team. 

His combat assignments include mortar platoon leader for the 6/6th Infantry Battalion, 1st Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, commander of 1/155th Infantry Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom III in 2005, and deputy commander of 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team during Operation Iraqi Freedom 9.2 in 2009-2010.

His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge with one Bronze Service Star, the Expert Infantry Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Business Education from Mississippi State University in 1987, a Masters of Business Administration, Military Management from Touro University International in 2003 and Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College in 2010.

Rhodes and his wife Debbie work and reside in Corinth, Mississippi where he is the general manager of the City of Corinth Gas and Water Department. 

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. Over the last 21 years, Epperly has commanded at every level in the division to include command of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Notably, Epperly completed two battalion commands. Epperly commanded the Lynchburg-based 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 Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and deployed the battalion for combat operations 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 earning a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Epperly has extensive experience in division operations having served as the 29th Division G3 operations officer on two occasions. Most recently, Epperly served as the deputy commanding general for operations for the division. He deployed to the Arabian Gulf Region with the 29th Infantry Division in 2016 and 2017 as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

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 President for IT Concepts Inc. He is a native of Fairlawn in Pulaski County, Virginia, and is a 1985 graduate of Pulaski County High School.