By Staff Sgt. Tina VillalobosApril 9, 2018
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - More than 500 Soldiers of the 35th Infantry Division blazed a new trail during their recent deployment to the Middle East. On its first deployment as a division in more than 70 years, the Division took charge of providing for the needs of more than 10,000 Soldiers among five brigades, spread across an area the size of the entire United States.
The 35th Inf. Div. set a precedent in its role as the first National Guard division to serve their entire deployment as a division headquarters in the Middle East. The Division was responsible for the needs of a myriad of Soldiers, consisting of active duty, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard, under the concept of the 'Total Army' program.
"The 35th Infantry Division supports operations across the theater," said Maj. Gen. Victor Braden, 35th Inf. Div. commanding general. "We're involved in offensive tasks, defensive tasks, and stability tasks all at the same time. It is not entirely a stability oriented mission."
According to Col. Timothy Bush, 35th Inf. Div. Chief of Staff, there are only eight division-level organizations in the National Guard, and just 10 among the active duty Army. The 35th Inf. Div. worked to purposefully implement the 'Total Army' concept among their endeavors to enhance readiness, create an environment of seamless transitions, and continually develop interoperability among the various service components and partner nations.
"If our platoons are going to deter aggression on this peninsula, to be most effective, they could potentially have to operate with a regional partner nation," said Bush. "It becomes exponentially more complicated, in that we have to develop interoperable exercises and training-where not only do we have to be good, but we have to be good in conjunction with our regional partners."
Challenges, according to Bush, include learning one another's different weapons, interacting in some cases with basic understandings of language, culture, and communications systems, and learning to work very well together.
"We have had to figure out how to intermingle and interoperate in effective ways," said Bush. "We have developed exercises where we can work platoon-to-platoon, company-to-company, or battalion-to-battalion. It has helped us to forge important relationships and understanding among our partner nations."
Bush explained that with the 35th Inf. Div. taking on the mission of division headquarters, U.S. Army Central command (ARCENT) has an opportunity to continue to enhance its role as a service component command.
Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, commanding general, U.S. Army Central command (ARCENT) agreed.
"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.
Operation Spartan Shield is U.S. Central Command's means to deter regional aggression and stabilize countries within the region. Task Force Spartan is the U.S. Army's 'total Army' concept in action. It involves all Army components working together toward a common goal. Among the elements and strategies involved are logistics, fire support, and training that includes partner nations for interoperability and cohesive operations.
The division aligned itself for success from its inception as a division headquarters by ensuring its continual immersion in the duties of Task Force Spartan in support of Operation Spartan Shield, and applying the 'Total Army, one standard' approach to their work throughout the theater.
"I think among the strengths of the Total Army policy is that there's only one standard," said Bush. "The standard for the way the National Guard or Army Reserve does a task is the same as the way the active duty Army does tasks, such as maintenance, personnel, pay, supply, or information security. All of those things have one standard."
Bush explained that with its precedent-setting role, the division's deployment differed in notable ways from past deployments, and required a new perspective.
"If you came over here thinking that you were going to be fighting ISIS, you really had to change your mindset," said Bush. "We're not directly fighting ISIS, but by building the most capable force, we're creating a deterrent that enables American forces to defeat ISIS. In many respects this deployment bridged that gap between being deployed in support of combat operations, while performing the normal Title 10 missions of an active duty Army."
Given their diversity of education, experience, and skillsets, soldiers throughout the division had an opportunity to influence positive outcomes, according to Bush.
"We have soldiers with a great diversity of professional experience and education," said Bush. "Our unique perspectives lend incredible strength to the mission and to the force as a whole. I think it is among the ways that we bring strength, and it really enables us look at things in a different way."
Although the Division performed some behind the scenes functions, Bush explained the importance of those roles.
"That tank crew is there because an S-1 [personnel section] is ensuring that they are manned; that they're resourced; that everyone has the correct entitlements," said Bush. "Without the S-1, when push comes to shove and we really need them, the tank crew wouldn't be manned, educated, resourced, evaluated, they wouldn't be awarded or getting paid. So the S-1 shop behind the scenes really makes that tank crew effective. Those Soldiers that respond to our orders are part of us-even if they were not wearing our patch, whether they're National Guard, Army Reserve, or active duty Army, we were still responsible for them-and that is a very sacred responsibility that the 35th Infantry Division executed."
In addition to administrative responsibilities, these troops enhanced interoperability through the execution of multiple exercises and operations in conjunction with partner nations, as well as training with partner nations, and interacting with host nation communities.
Operations and joint trainings of the 35th Inf. Div. under Task Force Spartan included: Operation Angel Strike, Operation Diamond Torrent, Iron Union 18-6, and several other joint training interaction opportunities, such as a U.S. and KLF joint medical training with doctors and nurses from each nation; a legal luncheon for U.S. military attorneys and Kuwait Armed Forces Military Justice Authority attorneys to discuss legal cooperation between the two countries and building a lasting partnership for the future.
Soldiers of the 35th Inf. Div. exemplified the motto that 'every soldier is an ambassador' through community engagements such as Women in Science and Technology, a Kuwaiti Book Fair, participation in Discover America Week, a joint barbeque with Kuwaiti Land Forces, as well as a beach cleanup endeavor with Kuwait and U.S. Navy forces.
Garrett appreciated the contributions and high standards set by the 35th Inf. Div.
"We need our reserve components-that's the absolute truth," said Garrett. "The Army would long ago have failed as an institution without the contributions of the Total Army, which includes our National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers. The Soldiers of the 35th Infantry Division took on this mission with great enthusiasm and executed it successfully and above expectations in every way. This type of mission had never been assigned to a National Guard division before, but these soldiers lived up to the reputation of their storied past. They were once known as "The Infantry Spearhead" of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army, and they spearheaded this new responsibility efficiently, effectively, and professionally."
Approximately 40 percent of the units deployed throughout the Central Command area of responsibility are National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.
"We remain indebted to the National Guard Bureau, the director of the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve command for all they have done to ensure we can continue this important mission here in the CENTCOM area of responsibility," said Garrett.