More than 450 soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division are mobilizing for federal active duty in the Middle East, officials announced Wednesday.

The soldiers, who belong to both the Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard, are deploying to provide mission command for more than 18,000 troops supporting Operation Spartan Shield and theater security cooperation in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. This will be the largest number of troops the 29th Infantry Division has led since World War II, and, if needed, the division is prepared to conduct contingency operations and command forces to respond to any threats in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, officials said.

"This is an historic deployment and tremendous opportunity for the 29th Infantry Division as we take on mission command of forces in the Central Command area of operations," said Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, the division commander, in a statement. "The 29th was selected due in large part to the exceptional duty performance displayed by our soldiers in previous exercises and training. I have great confidence in the professionalism, experience and abilities of the men and women of the 29th, and I know we are well prepared for any challenges that we might face."

The deploying soldiers will be honored Oct. 30 during a departure ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. They will then train in Texas for 30 to 45 days before deploying overseas.

This upcoming deployment marks the critical role Guard and Army Reserve soldiers play in operations around the world, officials said.

Last year, there were no


​Army National Guard division headquarters deployed, Gen. Robert Abrams, commanding general of Army Forces Command, said during the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in early October.

Today, the 36th Infantry Division headquarters from the Texas Army National Guard is four months into its deployment to Afghanistan, becoming the first Guard division headquarters to assume authority for a regional command headquarters there since the start of the war, Abrams said.

In Jordan, the 29th Infantry Division headquarters, from Virginia and Maryland, assumed command of the military’s joint operations center there to support Operation Inherent Resolve, Abrams said. And in December, the division also will assume responsibility for a "brand-new requirement" for a division headquarters to be fully employed in Kuwait to support U.S. Army Central and Operation Spartan Shield, he said.

"Both the 36th and 29th Infantry Divisions are filling critical roles in support of our combatant commanders," Abrams said.

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

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