Lt. Col. Robert Preiss
U.S. Forces – Iraq
The 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, assumed responsibility Jan. 2 as one of the three Army divisions overseeing U.S. operations in Iraq.
In a formal transfer of authority ceremony attended by Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as numerous Iraqi dignitaries, the 36th unfurled its colors as it officially replaced the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, which had previously led U.S. efforts in the southern third of the country.
Now, the incoming National Guard division headquarters will take command of the two active component brigades engaged in advising, training and assisting Iraqi security forces in the region.
Consistent with the Army’s new modular approach to battlefield organization, the two brigades under the command of the division headquarters are not those normally organic to the division.
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment shares the division’s Texas roots, as it is based at Fort Hood, while the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry is from Fort Carson, Colo.
Noting that the division’s vast southern operational area in Iraq encompasses half of this country’s 18 provinces, Austin said the region was "enormously important" to the future economic strength of Iraq.
He also said the 36th Infantry Division is up to the task in taking on a mission which could be decisive in the coming year as United States forces depart Iraq in accordance with the terms of the existing U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.
In his remarks upon accepting responsibility as the new U.S. Division–South commander, Maj. Gen. Eddy Spurgin, the division commander, paid tribute to his 1st Infantry Division predecessors, noting that the two divisions had served side-by-side in the Meuse Argonne campaign of World War I and it was fitting that now the two once again were together ushering in a new phase of history in Iraq.
The transfer of authority marked the third time a National Guard division has assumed responsibility for an area within Iraq during the course of U.S. operations here over the past seven years.
In 2009, the 34th Infantry Division headquarters of the Minnesota National Guard also served as the U.S. division in southern Iraq.
In 2004, the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters of the New York National Guard served in the northern part of the country.