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Stafford officer to lead Virginia National Guard

A Stafford County man has been named the top commander of the Virginia Army National Guard. 

Col. Blake C. Ortner was promoted to brigadier general during a ceremony last weekend, succeeding Brig. Gen. William R. Phillips II, now the deputy commanding general of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division.

Ortner has been on four deployments, with one as a battalion commander and one as a brigade commander.

“I can’t think of a better person to meet this challenge, and we have a lot of talented senior officers in the Virginia National Guard,” Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia, said at the ceremony at Fort Pickett. “He has a huge portfolio of the things he has done, and I know he will succeed in meeting the challenge.”

He works for the Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington, lobbying Congress for veterans benefits and health care services.

Most recently the operations officer for the Virginia Army National Guard, Ortner is a 1983 graduate of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He also has a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College.

Ortner’s service began with a regular Army commission as an infantry officer, and he served on active duty until 1987. Two years later, he joined the Virginia Army National Guard, where he served in the 116th Infantry Regiment and 29th Infantry Division.

In 2004, he led the first Virginia National Guard infantry battalion to deploy to combat since World War II, as he commanded the 3rd Battalion and 116th Infantry Battalion in 2004 to Afghanistan.

He also deployed to Iraq in 2007, leading the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ortner has been recognized with many awards over his 20 years with the Guard.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975