By Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Roles
Task Force Spartan
Several hundred soldiers from both units observed as division leaders cased the 28th's colors, while the colors of the 34th 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 28th is the largest unit of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The 34th is comprised primarily of Soldiers from the Iowa and Minnesota National Guard.
“Over the past nine months, Task Force Spartan, along with U.S. Army Central, has participated in dozens of exercises with our partner nations,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Schafer, the 28th’s commanding general. “Countless engagements were conducted with subject matter experts in areas such as logistics, aviation, gunnery, engineering, fires, air defense, maintenance and the role of the noncommissioned officer corps, just to name a few. All this [was completed] while maintaining a defensive regional posture, improving readiness across the force and providing support to Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom Sentinel.”
Schafer told the audience that as he and Command Sgt. Maj. John Jones, the 28th’s command sergeant major, traveled around the TFS area of operations they were consistently impressed by the professional and dedicated soldiers they met at each location.
Now in its seventh year, Operation Spartan Shield (OSS) is designed to maintain a U.S. military posture sufficient to strengthen U.S. defense relationships, build partner capacity and execute CENTCOM contingency plans if necessary. Task Force Spartan represents the army component of OSS.
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.
"By anticipating requirements for combat forces and enablers this very capable team provided rapid response to every request for theater coordination," Garrett said. "You set a new standard for mission accomplishment here and added further luster to the 28th ID’s already rich history."
Garret 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 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the ranks of those observing the ceremony.
"The Iron Division [28th] has been value added in every way, making a lasting difference with our host nation, the Kuwaitis, and with our other partner nations in this important region," Garrett said. “Maj. Gen. Schafer’s team achieved previously unequaled levels of readiness within the brigades of the task force and the headquarters itself.”
Garrett welcomed the 34th Infantry Division as the fourth, consecutive National Guard division headquarters to assume the Task Force Spartan mission.
“You assume this mission at an extremely interesting time. The U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is by most steps as strategically important as it is vulnerable,” said Garrett. “I have every confidence that the Red Bull Division [34th] is ready for the challenge coming its way. You will be providing mission command for some seasoned and capable formations,”
“On behalf of the entire Red Bull Division, I can tell you, we are fully trained. We are prepared to seamlessly step in and execute the mission requirements,” said Maj. Gen. Benjamin J. Corell, the 34th’s commanding general. “These Red Bulls that I represent are honored to be assuming command of Task Force Spartan and take the lead of Operation Spartan Shield. For months now, we have watched closely as the Iron Division has achieved new milestones and developed creative innovations while executing Spartan Shield. Maj. Gen. Schafer and Command Sgt. Maj. Jones, you raised the standard and the expectations of future division headquarters leading Task Force Spartan.”
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.
“To the soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division and Headquarters Battalion, I congratulate you on a job well done. You found great success in a very diverse mission, spanning 13 countries. You excelled at improving and advancing every staff process,” said Schafer. “Accomplishments were great in number but what was learned along the way was even greater.”
The 28th’s soldiers have begun the redeployment process this week and will process out of active service through Fort Hood, Texas. Most soldiers will return to their families sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION