June 22, 2011

29th ID troops in Afghanistan commemorate D-Day

By Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan
29th Infantry Division Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan — On June 6, Staff Sgt. Ryan Yancey raised the colors of the 29th Infantry Division at the International Joint Command Headquarters at the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.

 

Sgt. 1st Class John Allen overlooking Bala Hissar. (Photo by 1st Lt. Douglas Arterburn, 29th Infantry Division)

The colors were raised at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 2011 just as they were at 6:30 a.m. 67 years ago, as the 29th ID began its assault on Omaha Beach.

The 29th Infantry Division played a vital role during Operation Overlord, the great amphibious assault on German-occupied France. The Soldiers stormed the mine-laden Omaha Beach under heavy machine gun fire with 3,100 officers and men. The successful landing came at a high cost for the 29th, resulting in over 1,000 causalities. The 29th ID contributions were only a small token of the total cost taking the beaches of Normandy in what was to be the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation for Western Europe.

The 29th Infantry Division was the only National Guard unit selected to participate in the initial invasion of Normandy

"It is an honor to be part of a unit with such a proud and honored legacy,” said Col. Paul Griffin, deputy director, IJC Security Partnering. “This is the first time the 29th Infantry Division has been activated in a combat zone since World War II.”

While the conflict in Afghanistan demands significantly different sacrifices than those made by 29th troops taking Omaha Beach, officers and Soldiers from Maryland and Virginia carry on the honored legacy in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the IJC under the command of International Security Assistance Force.

 

Staff Sgt. Ryan Yancey raises the colors of the 29th Infantry Division at exactly 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 2011 (Photo by Col. Paul Griffin, 29th Infantry Division)

In the years since WWII, when the 29th ID Soldiers were directly fighting an enemy of another nation, the modern 29th ID Solider is fighting an insurgency that has no nationality. The new role of these service members is to provide guidance and training expertise to the Afghan National Security Force, allowing them to combat the distinctly complex environment created by the insurgency. Brig. Gen. William J. O’Neil leads the Security Partnering Team as they develop new ways to combat the insurgent threat to the Afghan populace.

"The officers and Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division are carrying on the legacy during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,” said Griffin.

The Security Partnering Team is combating the insurgency by focusing on four distinct mentoring and advising groups. Ground Forces Command, National Military Command Center, National Police Command Center, and Headquarters, IJC.

Mentors for the Ground Forces Command work closely with the Afghan Generals to prepare the Afghanistan National Army for the future. Their task is to show the ANA how to man, equip, and train the ANA for 2012 and beyond.

The National Military Command Center is the operations cell for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense. The 29th ID mentors provide guidance and assistance to the operations and planning teams of the ANA in addition to the major functional areas of the Afghan Ministry of Defense. The ANA has over 170,000 members and is scheduled to have more than 200,000 officers and Soldiers.

The National Police Command Center’s mentors help the Afghanistan Ministry of Interior conduct operations for its five police divisions. Members of the 29th directly mentor two and three-star generals of the MoI. They provide interpersonal skills training to enable work across cultural boundaries. The MoI has over 125,000 police officers and will grow to over 150,000.

The remaining members of the 29th work in the Headquarters of IJC and are responsible for the daily operations and planning of the war in Afghanistan. They work with other NATO members in the fight against insurgency and work toward Afghanistan’s enhanced self-governance through a professional and capable national security force.

"We are very seasoned with respect to our job responsibilities. More and more the IJC depends on our expertise to develop the Afghan National Security Forces," said Griffin.

It is as true today as it was 67 years ago; the 29th Infantry Division stands ready to answer the call of duty anytime and anywhere in the world as it has done since 1917.

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