Normandy Division Preps for Return to Europe
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT BELVOIR, Va., Sept. 7, 2001 As the soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division marched toward the buses that would take them to Fort Dix, N.J., the band played the theme from the movie "The Longest Day."
The division, made up of National Guardsmen from Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts, were going back to Europe for the first time since the 29th landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. The unit forms the core of Stabilization Force 10 in Bosnia.
Division Commander Army Maj. Gen. H. Steven Blum said the deployment of the reserve component division highlights the Army of One motto. While most of the personnel will come from the 29th, the division will be augmented by other service members from as far away as California and Oregon. In all, guardsmen from 18 states, reservists from three Army Reserve Support Commands and active duty personnel from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La., are part of the team.
Once on the ground in Bosnia, the 29th will command the Multinational Division, North. This includes all U.S troops in the area as well as a Polish-Nordic brigade, a Turkish brigade and a Russian airborne regiment. The division will relieve the 3rd Infantry Division and will stay in Bosnia through April 2002.
Richard Whiston, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said that all soldiers who go in harm's way must receive the same level of training. But readying a National Guard unit for this sort of mission is different from readying a comparable active duty force.
One obvious difference is National Guard units have two missions. Their state mission is the one apparent on the 6 o'clock news when guardsmen help during natural disasters and maintain order during civil disturbances. When units perform in these roles, the state governor is their commander-in-chief.
But the reserve components have become increasingly active in their second mission of national defense, and they have to pay more attention to it.
The 29th's mission to Bosnia is a national one, and all the guardsmen were "federalized" to participate. Once federalized, Guard units are like any other in the active Army: The president is the commander-in-chief, funding comes through the Pentagon and units enter the chain of command at the appropriate level.
The Pentagon identified Stabilization Force 10 units 18 months ago, but Blum did not command all the forces he would take to Bosnia until DoD mobilized the force on Aug. 29. Until then, he had no authority to direct nondivision units to train.
Blum, who looks like he shares Michael Jordan's barber, quipped that he had a full head of hair at the beginning of the process. But, he said, getting the states to cooperate really "wasn't a problem. We received great support from the states, and the adjutants general." The states cooperated and followed Blum's suggestions for training.
The need to fulfill state and national missions also partially dictated which units would go, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Davis, chief of the National Guard Bureau. The 29th could not take too many soldiers from one state or the various governors would not have enough personnel at home in the event of a disaster. Other considerations in the decision to draw guardsmen from 18 states included the tempo of recent National Guard deployments and the nature of the 29th as a light infantry division -- it would need tank and armored personnel carrier support from Mississippi and Texas units.
The Guard units had three levels of training: individual, unit and "theater-directed." The first two were conducted at the units' home stations or in state. Theater-directed training occurred at Fort Benning, Ga. Further, refresher training will take place at Fort Dix, Force 10's mobilization site.
Individual training includes tasks such as weapons qualification, protective mask confidence training and military occupational specialty qualification. Unit training included securing and defending positions, conducting patrols and operating checkpoints.
Four days of theater-directed training at Fort Benning included exercises in quick-reaction force missions, checkpoint operations and combat search and rescue operations. The guardsmen received the same training all deploying units receive, according to Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganero.
In addition, soldiers received briefings on force protection, mine awareness, the rules of engagement, casualty evacuation and communications procedures.
In January 2001, all the units in SFOR 10 gathered at Fort Polk for a military training exercise. This allowed the commanders to get used to working with each other and pointed to shortcomings they needed to correct.
The average soldier has spent 100 days in the past 18 months preparing for the mission, Blum said. It was his goal that "no soldier would experience in Bosnia what he has not already seen in training."
Some of the exercises come directly from previous experiences in Bosnia. They exercise with civilians posing as members of the media. They practiced entering an area, setting up a headquarters and perimeter and confronting civilians. They rehearse setting up convoys and what to do when they come across an illegal checkpoint.
A National Guard unit has other hurdles that active duty units do not confront. While performing the 100 days of training, the guardsmen also held down full-time civilian jobs, Blum said. Their families and employers had to cooperate so the guardsmen could go on this mission. Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore specifically thanked families and employers for allowing the men and women of the 29th to be citizen-soldiers.
The division is now at the Fort Dix mobilization center and will ship out from there throughout September. While at the New Jersey post, the men and women of the division will go through last-minute exercises and ensure that their personnel and medical and dental records are in order. Fort Dix officials look at their services as "a last chance" to correct problems. They look at the records and others, such as family care plans, to ensure the soldiers are ready to deploy.
Given all this, the men and women of the 29th volunteered for the mission. Army Spc. Conrad Savoury and Spc. Adam Jenks both transferred from other units to deploy with Company A, 104th Infantry. They expect the deployment to be challenging.
Blum agrees. "This is intellectual warfare," he said. "It is complicated and difficult. Our success will be measured in having thought our way out of a problem rather than fought our way out."