KUWAIT 12.02.2020 –
It starts with a low grumble, a growl really, followed by the faintest of creaks and groans as the powerful panther springs forward from where it laid in wait. The long moments of preparation and vigilance have paid off, and it is time for the panther to begin its work after much preparation and study of its target.
Much like the panther, the mascot for the 36th Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion from Austin, Texas, the 36th Inf. Div. has not deployed in the last two years but has not been inactive. They’ve been readying themselves for a new mission, Operation Spartan Shield, designed to strengthen the United States’ defense relationships and continue to build partnerships throughout Southwest Asia, as well as facilitate theater cooperation activities.
The Soldiers of the 36th Inf. Div., also known as “The Arrowhead Division,” are teeming with pride in this mission, a new chapter for a division with a significant history their Soldiers can be proud of, especially one service member, Sgt. David Moran, a transportation officer with the Intelligence and Security Company, 36th Inf. Div.
“I always look forward to deploying with 36th,” said Moran, a resident of San Antonio, Texas. “It’s a big deal. It is about pride, and it’s also bragging rights. Not many people can say they have been on not one, not two, but now on three division deployments with 36ID.”
For Moran this isn’t just another deployment, it is possibly his last with the 36th Inf. Div., which mobilized out of Austin, Texas, Sept. 27, 2020, taking over Task Force Spartan, the leadership task force for OSS.
It wasn’t a short road to deployment for the 36th Inf. Div. They trained for two years to reach their stepping-off point, which is not surprising when deploying an entire division headquarters level element. Many moving parts on top of constant planning went into getting the division ready for what Moran sees as a momentous occasion.
“Every deployment has been historical,” said Moran. “This one is probably the most historical because since World War II we have not done a full division deployment with all our equipment and all your ammunition, everybody hands on. We are pushing forward and working as a team. Historically, I’m very proud to be part of this.”
The partnership and pride in the mission that Moran describes reflects the intention of the mission that 36th Inf. Div. Soldiers have been tasked with. The mission is non-combat related, geared more toward supporting security and continuing the growth of partner nation relationships in the region. They do this through security cooperation activities, such as key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, symposia, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response planning.
The mission is 100 percent about security and maintaining our relationships with partner nations, said Moran.
“People know what we are about,” said Moran confidently as he talks about how the 36th Inf. Div. will represent the OSS mission well, going on to say. “Our name and our ‘T-patch’ speak for itself.”
This is a sentiment that other Soldiers from 36th Inf. Div. share. The end state is not to fight or be a “World Police.” The hope is for peace brought about through comradery and learning from one another.
“We have an incredible background in relationships with countries in the area,” said Cpt. Charles “Levi” Leddy, the Red Team Deputy, Headquarters Service Company, 36th Inf. Div. “We want to perpetuate that. We want to help them keep peace where it is. We are trying to step in and be partners and nothing more.”
Leddy, like Moran, has deployed, but never with 36th Inf. Div. For a service member with different experiences and deployments with other units under his belt, Leddy is just as excited about the opportunity to deploy with The Arrowhead Division.
“I’m really excited about the deployment,” said Leddy. “We have one division in Texas. We are the tip of the spear. We’re ‘The Arrowhead.’ We’re the guys and girls who are able to go do the things we’re called to do.”
Leddy has been on multiple deployments: one during Operation Enduring Freedom and another to Pacific Pathways with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. However, he said this one feels different for him.
“The unit as a whole has such a rich history,” said Leddy. “Even when the unit got shut down, whenever they needed somebody to do what needed to be done, they kicked us right back on because the military said, ‘We know who can do it.’ It’s just a cool experience to see something so different.”
The history Leddy and Moran speak of is long and would fill pages upon pages all on its own. One significant event that stands out is the 36th Inf. Div.’s involvement in the storming of the beaches at Normandy, or “D-Day” as it is most commonly referred to, being one of the first units to touch down on sand. They used their might, along with other military forces, to push back the enemy after many long and arduous battles that lend to the pride of the 36th Inf. Div.
These sentiments of pride held by these veterans of past deployments aren’t just theirs alone. The ideas and feelings coursing throughout their minds are carried by younger, “greener” service members new to the 36th Inf. Div.—brand new to deployment.
“It is my first deployment,” said Sgt. Victor Jimenez, a religious affairs specialist, Headquarters Service Company, 36th Inf. Div. “I’m very excited. Deploying with the 36 ID is an awesome experience.”
Jimenez, a resident of the metro area around McAllen, Texas, saw this not just as an exciting opportunity, but a unique one he hopes will contribute to his career.
“The opportunity came up, and I said, ‘Yes, let’s go for it,’” said Jimenez. “The experience I’m going to get working with division, that’s going to help me out a lot as an NCO and in my military career.”
This deployment with 36th Inf. Div. in support of Operation Spartan Shield holds a wide variety of unique and impending experiences for these Soldiers. Two of them are completely opposite sides of the same coin; one barely in the beginning of his military service, with dreams of progressing his career.
“Your first deployment is always your first,” said Jimenez. “There is a lot of anticipation, but I feel like it’s the perfect time. I’m young and still have a lot of years to go.”
Then there is the Soldier on the far side, possibly ending his career on a high note.
“It might be my last deployment,” said Moran. “So, ending it like this means a lot.”
These Soldiers are all at differing stages of their careers. What they hope to gain from the journey might vary, but they all hold one thing true, their pride in the 36th Inf. Div., The Arrowhead Division, now—Task Force Spartan, the panther ready for action.