Blum takes command of the 29th

by Spc. Greg Fuhs
29th Infantry Division (Light) Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, VA, August 14, 1999 -- The soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division (Light) stood proudly in the blazing heat today to bid fond farewell to their leader and welcome a new one.

Maj. Gen. Carroll D. Childers transferred command of the division to Brig. Gen. H Steven Blum in a change of command ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va.. The ceremony capped a 44-year career that took Childers from the lower enlisted ranks in the Arkansas National Guard to the highest position in the 29th.

"I have really been a fortunate leader," Childers said during his farewell speech. "I know that following me has not always been easy, but I intended that the trip would be worth it. I intended that together we could climb new heights of accomplishment, and you helped me achieve that intent, and did it because you are the best."

Childers joined the Arkansas Guard in 1955 and spent his first eight years in service as an enlisted soldier, initially as a cook, then as a tank driver.

Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs, commander of First Army, told a tale during his remarks of Childers' early enthusiasm. When Childers was attending Louisiana Tech to get his mechanical engineering degree, Riggs joked, "They let him drive his tank back and forth to school. They didn't mind that stuff back in those days because it didn't hurt anything, since of none of the roads were paved anyway."

Childers graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1962, moved to Virginia and completed Officer Candidate School as Distinguished Honor Graduate in 1964. In the following decades, he served in several command and staff positions and earned the distinction of completing the Army Ranger Course as Distinguished Honor Graduate at age 42.

"Gen. Childers culminated his extraordinary career by taking command of this fine division and commanding it in an exceptional fashion over the last three years," said Riggs.

The change of command ceremony began shortly after 11:00 a.m. under a hot, late-morning sun. After the invocation, Childers and Riggs were given a traditional 15-gun salute from a 105mm howitzer battery. Childers was presented with the casing of the last round later in the ceremony. During their review of the troops, Riggs, Childers and Blum also had the privilege of riding in the "Vixen Tor," the command vehicle used by Maj. Gen. Charles Gerhardt on D-Day at the 29th's Omaha Beach landing.

Childers also was presented with the Legion of Merit award for serving with distinction "in various positions of great responsibility and trust" over the last decade. His wife, Dayle, was presented with a Certificate of Achievement from Riggs for her role in making her husband's success possible.

Childers expressed pride and confidence as he spoke to the soldiers in formation across the parade field. "No professional endeavor has given me more pride and joy than to serve our Army and to serve soldiers like you," he said. "I'm sure you will give the same commitment of excellence to Gen. Blum as he continues the lineage and the accomplishments of this great division."

Blum was born Oct. 13, 1946, and has served with the Maryland Army National Guard for 28 years. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Baltimore and a master's degree from Morgan State College. Most recently, Blum commanded the Maryland Army National Guard and was also assigned as assistant division commander for support of the 29th.

Blum assumed command of the division during the traditional passing of the colors. "I am truly humbled, and it is my sincere honor to serve this justly proud division," he said during his remarks.

He also reflected on the accomplishments of the division commanders who came before him, noting that each time the unit was made better than before. "General Childers, you have left me some enormous boots to fill," said Blum. "I'll do the best I can. That's my pledge to you and the division."

Riggs expressed optimism that the unit would remain in good hands. "As the colors pass from General Childers to General Blum, I have confidence that the 29th's proud history, superb record and dedicated service to the nation will continue unabated into the new millennium," he said. "The challenges of the future are there, but so is the 29th Infantry Division."

Click HERE to view photos from the change of command ceremony.

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This page was last updated August 17, 1999.