Baltimore native to take command of Md. Guard division

General Blum calls 29th Infantry post a `dream come true'

August 13, 1999|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Forest Park High School's "Mama" Cass Elliott went on to sing splendid songs. Barry Levinson shaped magic on the movie screen.

H. Steven Blum, son of a tailor and also a graduate of the Northwest Baltimore school in the early 1960s, preferred studying the warrior ethic by jumping from airplanes.

Tomorrow, Blum, 52, a brigadier general, will assume command of the Maryland National Guard's storied 29th Infantry Division, a unit with lineage that includes the American Revolution and the bloody landing in Normandy during World War II.

Blum, who replaces Maj. Gen. Carroll D. Childers of Virginia, will be promoted to major general in several weeks.

"This is a professional soldier's dream come true," Blum said of the promotion ceremonies to be held at Fort Belvoir, Va.

"While the history of the division is written in pride and distinguished service, the unit today is being missioned for real world contingencies around the globe," Blum said.

In addition to its federal role involving peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, the Maryland contingent of the 29th conducts operations for the state during emergencies such as hurricanes and blizzards.

Blum's most difficult challenge will be retaining troop strength, although the overall division is 92 percent filled. The division also has units in Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"The competition for attracting and keeping highly motivated, drug-free young people is difficult to do in this healthy economy," said Blum. The aviation and support commands are healthy, he said, but the infantry units, 82 percent filled, need attention.

State tuition and assistance programs offered to members of the Guard will help, he said.

A Guard member can qualify to have 50 percent of tuition waived at any Maryland two- or four-year college. The Guard also will pay up to 50 percent of the remainder of the college cost.

In the field, Blum was known as a focused soldier. He is now known as a thoughtful commander, concerned about the morale of his troops.

It wasn't surprising to many that Blum allowed his shaved head to be painted with the blue-and-gray division patch when a contingent of the Maryland Guard returned from duty in Bosnia last year.

Blum joined the Guard in 1968 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1971. He was an operations and intelligence officer with a Guard Special Forces detachment and later commanded a battalion and brigade.

He has made more than 1,100 parachute jumps and has worked with military forces from Thailand and South Korea to France, Honduras and Canada. "The Koreans were and are the toughest of all those troops," he said.

Blum has attended numerous Army staff officer courses and infantry schools.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Baltimore and a master's degree in social science from Morgan State University.

Blum lives in Reisterstown with his wife, Susan. They have two grown children, a daughter, Debra, and a son, Marc, a second lieutenant in the Maryland National Guard.

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