By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Roles
28th Infantry Division
Several hundred soldiers from both units observed as division leaders cased the 35th's colors, while the colors of the 28th were unfurled. Every command in the Army is represented by a distinctive flag and the TOA ceremony signifies assumption of command and the continuity of the mission. The 35th is comprised of National Guard soldiers from Missouri and Kansas while the 28th is the largest unit of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
"Once again the 28th has deployed overseas in support of our country. This time in support of Operation Spartan Shield in southwest Asia,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Schafer, the 28th’s commanding general. "We will work with and conduct training with our allies in the region and maintain readiness for assigned U.S. Army units. We will support ARCENT (U.S. Army Central) and CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) as we continue to improve our theater posture here in the region.”
Now in its sixth year, Task Force Spartan is designed to maintain a U.S. military posture sufficient to strengthen U.S. defense relationships, build partner capacity and execute CENTCOM contingency plans when necessary. Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, U.S. Army Central commander, said the division headquarters at the helm of Task Force Spartan plays an important role in the security of a dynamic region.
"The role the 28th will play in maintaining those partnerships as Task Force Spartan will become all the more critical," Garrett said. “My congratulations on your successful train-up. And today, as you assume responsibility for an absolutely vital mission, I offer my best wishes for a safe and rewarding tour of duty. I know your team is ready.”
Garrett said the complex security environment of the region makes partnership and cooperation with regional militaries and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council ever more important. He acknowledged a group of military leaders from Kuwait and Qatar in the ranks of those observing the ceremony.
"Everyone in this formation played or will play a part in maintaining the excellent partnership that we have built together, and we offer a very special welcome to them," Garrett said. "With partner nations in the region like Kuwait and Qatar, US Army Central has been at the forefront of the Army's effort to protect our national interests and support our partners in the Middle East."
Task Force Spartan is a unique, multi-component organization made up of active Army and National Guard units and rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units. Garrett said Task Force Spartan epitomizes a total Army effort and “serves as proof positive that without the reserve components in our force structure, we would long ago have failed as an Army.”
Garrett thanked the Guard and Reserve soldiers for their selfless service and the personal time dedicated to being mission-ready. He asked the citizen-soldiers to pass along his thanks to families and employers.
"Thank you all for the very special and unique sacrifices you make to serve your country" Garrett said. “I am absolutely amazed that people with completely different lives and responsibilities are able to prepare, are able to deploy and are able to perform at the incredibly high level that you do."
Garrett said he is "immensely proud" of the job the 35th has done to build readiness and partnerships. The 35th now turns its attention to redeployment and re-integration,
Maj. Gen. Victor Braden, the 35th’s commanding general, also spoke about the complexities of the Gulf region. He advised the 28th’s leaders to anticipate transitions and prepare the unit’s soldiers to be agile and adaptive. Braden thanked the soldiers of his unit for their hard work and dedication.
"The 35th Infantry Division now leaves southwest Asia with the knowledge that after 74 years the ‘Santa Fe’ soldiers from the rolling hills along the Missouri River to the vastness of the Great Plains of Kansas have blazed a new trail,” Braden said. “We, like those before us, have answered the calling of our time."
Schafer noted that the 35th and 28th have a common history, having fought side by side in World War I. More recently the two units have participated in several training events together, including Warfighter exercises. During his remarks, Schafer thanked the leaders of the 35th for sharing numerous lessons learned from their deployment and for providing theater academics as the 28th’s headquarters unit completed its culminating training event at Fort Hood, Texas last month prior to heading overseas.
"I have full faith and confidence in the soldiers and officers of our division,” Schafer said. “They will accomplish the mission proudly, represent the commonwealth and continue the great history of the PA Army National Guard that was established in 1747 in the city of Philadelphia."
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION