CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT (12/19/2016) -- On a dusty parade field here, five Brigade standards fluttered in the wind side-by-side, held aloft by their color bearers. And in front of those, on order, another standard was unfurled. This one displayed a unique circle, encased in green, of blue and gray, curved and of equal parts, intertwined with each other. Raising this standard, the flag of the 29th Infantry Division, meant the unit had officially arrived in-country and was ready to assume command.
Having already made history many times in places like the Meuse-Argonne forest in World War I and the beaches of Normandy in World War II, the ceremony marked another historic accomplishment for the 29th Infantry Division. Members of the unit took their place as the first-ever Intermediate Division Headquarters for the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility, a strategic command once commanded by famous General George Patton.
"When I was young, my personal heroes were Medal of Honor hero Audie Murphy and General George S. Patton," said Maj. Gen. Blake Ortner, 29th Infantry Division commander. "And now it is my honor to join Patton's Own."
The unit will serve as the bridge between the strategic command of Army Central and the tactical command of five brigades under Operation Spartan Shield. The subordinate brigades include the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, The Arkansas National Guard's 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, the Texas National Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade, the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and the New Hampshire National Guard's 197th Field Artillery Brigade. All told, the 29th Infantry Division will command around 18,000 troops. This is the most Soldiers the Division has commanded since World War II.
Under Spartan Shield, the 29th Infantry Division is charged with building partner capacity to promote regional self-reliance, increasing security, and fostering strong military-to-military relationships in order to deter future conflict. Ortner shared his vision for how those ends could be achieved, which centered on readiness.
"The work you do to build readiness of your units and with our allies and partners to build capacity, understanding, interoperability and trust is critical to any future fight," Ortner said. "It is readiness in all areas, equipment readiness, personnel readiness, maintenance readiness, medical readiness, physical and mental readiness. And also, personal readiness."
Ortner stressed the need to be ready, partly due to his experience with the 29th Infantry Division's relatively quick 90-day notification and train-up for the mission. Doing so, he said, proved the viability of the Total Force concept that made the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and Active Army interchangeable.
"You have demonstrated the capability of the National Guard to step up for any task," Ortner said to his Soldiers. "You have proven there is only one Army, the Total Army."
As the Army Song played to close out the ceremony, the brigade standards marched off the field. The color guard protecting the newly uncased 29th Infantry Division flag wheeled around and followed them. And a new chapter in the history of the 29th Infantry Division began.