August 3, 2002, 15:25 EDT

Long takes command of 29th Infantry Division

by Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard Deputy Public Affairs Officer

Brig. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr. received the division colors from Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, the commanding general of First United States Army, signifying his assumption of command for the division. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

A new page was written in the history of the 29th Infantry Division as Brig. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr. took command of the division from Maj. Gen. H Steven Blum during a ceremony held at Fort Belvoir, Va. this morning.

Blum's time in command of the division was highlighted by the 29th deploying as the headquarters for Multinational Division (North), Task Force Eagle, in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the 10th rotation of NATO's peace stabilization forces (SFOR 10). As commander of Task Force Eagle, Blum commanded units from the Army National Guard, as well as forces from more than 11 other nations.

Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, the commanding general of First United States Army, was present to conduct the ceremonial passing of the colors that signifies the change in command. "In 1999 when Gen. Steve Blum stepped to a stage such as this to assume command of the 29th Division, he believed on that day that his greatest challenge would be the fight for resources," Inge said. "He believed on that day that his challenge would be to train soldiers, to prepare brigade staffs, to prepare battalion staffs. Little did he dream that the members of the 29th Division would in short order would be called to secure the blessings of freedom, not only for ourselves, but for others in areas of interest to us in the world."

Inge said that he had breakfast with a general officer that he didn't even realize knew Blum that said " Blum did a great job in Bosnia, his soldiers performed well for him."

That's about as good as compliment as you can give an outgoing commander" Inge said.

He told Blum, "We owe you a great debt for your leadership. We are proud to have known you, we are proud that you have known us, and we thank you for your service."

After serving in the division for 17 years, Blum leaves to become the Chief of Staff of Northern Command, in Co.

Inge had strong words of confidence in the division's new commander. He said Long is "well prepared for this task" of commanding the division. He went on to say that Long is known as a "man of character" and a "trainer of soldiers"

"It is important that this division remain trained, it is important that this division remain ready, and we have chosen the right man for this job," Inge said.

Long also received a strong vote of confidence from his former boss. Long served as deputy commander for maneuver of the 29th prior to taking command. Blum said of Long, "He is clearly the best choice to lead this great division. There is no other soldier that I know of that could do it better. He is a soldier's soldier. Truly there is no one more qualified, no one more committed, and certainly no one more competent."

Blum commented that the special guest in the audience marked a special significance. "The officers here from the three components of our Army and the TAGs from the various states that make up this division, sends and unmistakable, very strong message that we have become THE Army," Blum said. "We could not have said that a short while ago. That is no minor accomplishment, and we did it together. I am quite proud of it."

Blum had strong words of praise for the soldiers who deployed to for SFOR 10. "Your record in Bosnia was very tricky work, and you did it in a truly outstanding manner," he said.

He also had similar strong feelings for those soldiers activated after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "For the 29ers who answer the call post 9-11," Blum said, "your performance continues to provide security for our homeland, peace of mind to our families and you have served to reassure a shaken nation. You are the envy of every army in the world."

He summed up his feelings by saying, "this division, once labeled by critics as irrelevant, has proven by its deeds that it is not only relevant, but it is essential to the defense of our nation."

The 29th Infantry Division is the only light infantry division in the reserve component and is comprised of 11,000 citizen-soldiers from five different states - Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

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