Sept. 6 , 2010

Annual training for 29th Infantry Division focused on readiness, high-tech equipment fielding  

By Maj. Wes Parmer        
29th Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT , Va – More than 450 Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division attended the annual training exercise ato Fort Pickett from Aug. 14-26 that focused on individual Soldier readiness as well as fielding new vehicles and high-tech command and control systems.


Soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division conduct Combat Lifesave Training at Fort Pickett during their annual training. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos on the 29th ID Facebook Page.

“29, Let’s Go!”  This, the motto of Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division, can be heard chanted at the close of each formation before the commander releases the troops.  It’s a reminder to all those present that the legacy of the historic division lives on. 

The mission began Aug. 14 when a convoy of troops and equipment left Fort Belvoir for the training grounds at Fort Pickett. The division rallied at the post theater for a welcoming brief by the division commander, Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr.  The overview they received from Batts and other staff members set the tone for what was to be a rigorous two-weeks of training. 

“This was a very successful annual training.” said Col. Paul Griffin, chief of staff for the 29th.  “Our dental readiness improved by 30 percent, we increased our physical fitness scores by 25 percent and we brought the division from maps and sticky notes up to the computer age with the Army Battle Command System.”

The first few days in the field were dedicated to individual weapons qualification as soldiers honed their skills on the M-4 rifle, M-9 pistol and M249 machine gun.  Achieving a “zero” on the weapon might sound misleading to a civilian. To a Soldier, the goal of “zeroing” the weapon’s sights means they’ve achieved a perfect alignment when they look down the barrel and engage a target.  It’s the first step to a successful qualification on the range. 

Next on the training schedule was driver’s training for those needing qualification on several new pieces of equipment the division recently fielded.  Heavy variant trucks equipped with armored plates were recently added to the motor pool, and require special skills to maneuver down the road and in a combat environment.  Soldiers of the 29th trained on these new trucks as well as the utility trailers that are often towed behind them. 


Successfully completing the Command Post Exercise during annual training involved erecting a 10,000 square-foot operations center constructed from a series of advanced tent structures, known as the standardized integrated command post system. (Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Click HERE to download a high resolution version of this photo.

Land navigation, map reading and technical training on radio encryption equipment was also completed as members of the 29th focused on collective tasks that all Soldiers must learn.  Mounted land navigation, completed while driving in a vehicle, and dismounted land navigation, were both practiced as Soldiers improved on these critical skills.  The division also recently fielded the signal key loader, a new piece of electronic gear that is used to synchronize encrypted coding on communications equipment. 

“This very important device is indeed key to allowing our troops to communicate securely and effectively when deployed abroad,” said Capt. Donald Bailey, commander of the Headquarters Company, 29th ID Special Troops Battalion.

Addressing the medical readiness of the division was also an important goal during the two-week training period, said Bailey.

Particular focus was given on the dental needs of Soldiers as deficiencies in dental health can prevent an individual from deploying in support of a mission. As the 29th prepares for a deployment to Afghanistan this fall, ensuring all Soldiers are medically fit remains a priority.  Individuals needing care were sent to an off-post dental clinic to receive necessary treatments.

Several dozen Soldiers also took place in Combat Life Saver training during their weeks at Fort Pickett.  Beyond basic medical first-aid techniques, the CLS course also incorporates tactics and techniques critical to getting our wounded safely off the battlefield, such as different methods for carrying or transporting the wounded.

“The combat life saver course was a big challenge for those Soldiers taking part in it,” said Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan, 29th Infantry Division public affairs officer.  “There was a lot of very useful real-world training built into the course.”

As the division accomplished all of these individual tasks, a massive Command Post Exercise was also being held.  Successfully completing this CPX involved the daunting task of erecting a 10,000 square-foot operations center constructed from a series of advanced tent structures, known as the standardized integrated command post system. This structure allowed for the full operation of all the components that are a part of a division headquarters.  A particular focus of the CPX was the fielding of a state-of-the-art command and control system known as the Command Post of the Future. 

As part of the Army Battle Command System, CPOF dramatically increases the efficiency and effectiveness of communication and operations in the field through the integration of technology into the way the Army plans and executes missions, said Lt. Col. Randall Cudworth, 29th Infantry Division information operations officer.

In one of the final formations of the division’s last full day of annual training Aug. 26, the Soldiers of the 29th gathered near the post gym to enjoy a celebratory picnic. “We collectively came together and fielded the most difficult and complex system the Army has available today”, Batts said as awards were presented at final formation, “you did a great job 29th!” 

On Saturday, August 28, the division marked the completion of annual training with a family day picnic at Fort Belvoir, Va., bringing together friends and family of all Virginia and Maryland elements of the 29th Division. This marked the last time the division would come together as a whole prior to the departure of select personnel for their deployment to Afghanistan.  The 29th Infantry Division will be departing in the fall in support of a NATO mission to provide security assistance to Afghan police and military forces.

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