Dec. 15, 2009

Historic change of command planned for the 29th Infantry Division in 2010

By Spc. Frank O’Brien
29th ID Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Brig. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr., deputy commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division at Fort Belvoir, Va., is scheduled to replace Maj. Gen. Grant Hayden as commander of the 29th in January 2010.

  Brig. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr.

Brig. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr.

“I’m just a simple guy who grew up just outside of Rocky Mount, N.C., working on tobacco farms. I never imagined I would wake up one morning as the commander of the 29th Infantry Division,” said Batts.

Batts, a 32-year veteran of the Army National Guard in three different states, will become the first African-American Soldier to command the 29th Infantry Division. 

“I’m honored that the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert Newman has confidence enough in my abilities to nominate me, and humbled to command the historic 29th,” said Batts.  “When I was a platoon leader back in ’77, I never thought I’d end up commanding a division.”

Batts, a Bronze Star Medal recipient, has been deputy commanding general at the 29th for almost two years.  He has previously commanded the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment in Norfolk, Va., and the 54th Field Artillery Brigade in Virginia Beach.

“I’m well pleased with the division’s work effort and improvements,” said Batts, of his tenure as deputy commanding general. “Thanks to General Hayden’s policies and procedures, we keep getting better. I think Soldiers will find that my leadership style is very similar to his,” Batts added.

Batts describes his role as ensuring that the 29th is ready if called upon to go wherever in the world and do whatever missions required. 

“At this point, the 29th has not been identified for any mobilization, yet it’s logical to assume that there’s a chance we could…And we’ve got to be ready.”

Batts was commissioned through the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro on Dec. 17, 1976. He served in both the West Virginia and Tennessee Army National Guard before joining the Virginia Guard in 1985. 

He has served in command positions from battery through brigade level. In his last command assignment, the general served as the commander of the 54th Field Artillery Brigade. When the 54th Brigade Headquarters was mobilized in February 2004, he served as mobile liaison team chief in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom from May 2004 through April 2005.

“The regular Army has a limited number of mobile liaison teams,” said Batts. “It was a rare opportunity for us. When the U.S. engaged the Taliban, the U.N. mandated security forces took control of Kabul and the surrounding territories as per the security agreement. Teams regularly briefed the ambassador and senior military leadership, as well as facilitated transfer of information between the incompatible computer systems of the various groups.”

When not serving with the Guard, Batts works as an electronics engineer at the NASA Langley Research Facility in Hampton, Va. His only time not serving in the Guard was a brief break in service when he pursued his master’s degree in electronic engineering in the early 80’s.

“For any soldiers who have or are considering a break in service, we want them to come back and stay with us,” said Batts. “The Guard is being called upon as never before. The education requirements for officers are higher than before, and the benefits better. During my short break in service, I found that I missed the excitement of drill -- of learning interesting things and training on new weapon systems. The Guard is being called on like never before. When you stay involved, your time in the Guard passes quicker than you realize.”

“I have full confidence in the abilities of Brig. Gen. Batts to elevate the readiness posture of the 29th Division to even higher levels,” said Hayden. “It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to command the division over the past two plus years.”

“The lineage and history of the 29th Division is well known throughout the Army and its performance has been flawless since its activation in 1918. Whatever is on the horizon for the division in the near future, Brig. Gen. Batts is the person to lead them; wherever the mission.”

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