European edition, Saturday, May 5, 2007

WIESBADEN, Germany — Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling has been assigned to the 1st Armored Division three times. The first two times he wound up in Iraq.

During his first stint, with 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, he deployed to Operation Desert Storm. On his second shift, he again headed to Iraq as the division’s assistant division commander for support.

He returned again Friday to command the division as the headquarters element preps for yet another Iraq deployment, which is expected to begin in late summer or early fall.

“I am proud to say that I am an Iron Soldier now, again,” said Hertling, former operations chief and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, in a speech after taking over the command from Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr.

Robinson, who also spoke, dedicated the bulk of his time to thanking and heaping praise on the soldiers, families of the division and the civilians and local communities who support them. “The hardest part of leaving this division is the thought of not seeing each and every one of you every day,” said Robinson, who had commanded the unit since July 2005.

Hertling stepped in just in time to lead the division to its second 15-month deployment to Iraq since the second Iraq war began in 2003. It’s a position he’s — wittingly or not — been groomed for.

During 1st AD’s last Iraq deployment, the division oversaw some 39,000 soldiers, about 20,000 of whom were not wearing 1st AD patches. This time around, it’s possible that none of the combat units under his command will wear the same patch he does.

A couple assignments before his last 1st AD hitch, when he was a colonel, Hertling commanded the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The division headquarters was in South Korea, and his brigade, a Stryker brigade, was stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash. The lessons he learned there he’ll pass on to his brigade commanders in Germany.

“I’m going to kind of explain how we did that as a brigade and how it’s kind of fun as a brigade commander,” Hertling said before the division’s change of command ceremony Friday. When the division headquarters is 8,000 miles away “you do things on your own sometimes and practice a lot of agility and flexibility,” he said.

But his advice goes beyond that. As the father of two Army officers — the youngest is in Iraq with Hertling’s old unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd ID — he has the ability to relate to families on a personal level about the stresses, worries and fears of deployment.

“It’s interesting from a two-star perspective to listen to, in this case, a second lieutenant, talk about what the extension has done for him, to his soldiers, to their family members,” Hertling said. It’s different getting that information from a family member than it is getting it from a soldier, he said.

“I think that’s allowed my wife and I to understand a little bit better some of the challenges our families are going through, even though we’ve been through it before as a division.”

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