Oct. 27, 2011

Soldiers from 29th Infantry Division return from duty in Afghanistan

By Cotton Puryear   
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va.— Approximately 72 Virginia and Maryland National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division returned home to family and friends Oct. 27 after serving in Afghanistan since early December 2010. The Soldiers returned to their demobilization station at Camp Atterbury, Ind., Oct. 20 and completed health screenings and other administrative tasks to transition from active duty back to National Guard status. The Soldiers returned to airports close to their home of record throughout the day on Thursday.


Family, friends and fellow members of the Virginia National Guard greet Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division at Richmond International Airport Oct. 27 as the Soldiers return home after serving in Afghanistan since early December 2010. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the welcome home on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The Soldiers were assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Security Partnering Team with the mission of assisting with the growth and development of the Afghan National Security Forces where they served as advisors and mentors to senior Afghan leaders. They were part of a NATO Coalition of 49 troop-contributing nations that Security Partnering personnel interacted with daily across Afghanistan.

“It was a great mission,” said Col. Jeffrey Hice, one of the senior officers who served as a mentor and advisor on the Security Partnering Team. According to Hice, Soldiers from the 29th were “front and center” on the mission of moving security responsibility to the Afghans. The 72 Soldiers were embedded on the staff and worked as advisors with the Afghans trying to get them to a point where they can take responsibility for their own security, he said.

Hice explained that the Soldiers were broken up into small sections across the ISAF Command Joint Staff and were out advising and mentoring with the Afghans in multiple locations. “We were able to network very well to get things done and keep growth and development of the Afghan forces moving,” he said.

Hice explained that the Security Partnering Team was working to support the growth and development of the existing security forces of the Afghan National Army and Afghan Police as well as developing the command structure for a new organization that will have responsibility for Afghan security in the future.

His team of 20 military personnel and civilian contractors, including 10 from the 29th ID, helped develop an implementation plan for the new Afghan National Army Ground Forces Command. Led by an Afghan three-star general officer, the GFC will provide command and control for all ANA forces at the corps level and below by transition in 2014. The Security Partnering Team helped design the organizational structure for the GFC as well as the strategy for acquiring equipment and facilities for the new organization. The command grew from 70 officers to more than 300 during the mobilization.


Sgt. Maj. Ricky Lee Edmonds, the senior enlisted advisor for deployed 29th Infantry Division Soldiers and ISAF Joint Command's Security Partnering efforts, rolls the unit colors and prepares to case them during a Transfer of Authority ceremony in Kabul Oct. 12. Edmonds, a Richmond, Va., native, has served the last year in Afghanistan with the 29th, also referred to as the "Blue and Grey". (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Pomrenke, ISAF Joint Command)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

During their time in Afghanistan, the Soldiers of the Security Partnering Team provided advice and assistance to help the Afghan National Police grow from 98,000 to 136,000 and Afghan National Army from 119,000 to 171,000. As those forces grew, the Soldiers of the 29th helped manage every aspect from requisitioning weapons and equipment, developing training and evaluation plans and constructing facilities to house and train the new personnel.

They facilitated the construction of more than $2 billion of infrastructure and facilities for the ANSF including multiple brigade- and battalion-size operating bases, combat outposts, police headquarters and ministerial buildings.

They also played an integral role in researching the significant causes to rising rates of attrition in the ANSF and helped senior leaders develop measures to counter the causes in order to continue the growth and development of the security forces.

Members of the Security Partnering Team also authored responses to multiple strategic and national policy documents including the Quarterly Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report, numerous Department of Defense Inspector General reports and Central Intelligence Agency reports.

The Security Partnering Team was comprised of Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard and the Maryland Army National Guard. Of the Soldiers who took part in the mission, approximately 44 are from the Virginia National Guard Soldiers and 20 are from the Northern Virginia area, 15 are from the Central Virginia area, seven are from Southwest Virginia, three are from the Hampton Roads area and the remaining are from various locations across the state. Most of the Soldiers from the Maryland National Guard Soldiers are from the Baltimore-Washington area as well as other locations across the state.

A new group of Maryland and Virginia Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division took over the mission, and a Transfer of Authority Ceremony was held Oct. 12 in Kabul.

Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division last deployed overseas for peace-keeping duty in Kosovo from August 2006 to November 2007.

The 29th Infantry Division has an honored legacy.  It was formed in 1917, but is best remembered for its integral part in Operation Overlord, the landings in Normandy Beach during World War II.  The division was among the first wave of troops to the shore at Omaha Beach.

Additional Information:

Va. and Md. Soldiers from 29th ID begin federal active duty for Afghanistan mission

Virginia Guard Soldiers helping build Afghan facilities

29th Infantry Division Soldiers validated for Afghanistan mission

29th Division ADAB says farewell during ceremony

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