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.”

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Image courtesy of US Army