Major General Chastain began his military career as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve, upon graduation from the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Arkansas Tech University on July 7, 1972. He served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the 142d Field Artillery Brigade, 87th Troop Command, and 39th Infantry Brigade (Separate). He commanded the 25th Rear Area Operations Center during Operation Desert Storm, and he led more than 4000 soldiers in an eighteen-month tour of duty in Iraq. Major General Ron Chastain and his wife, Pam, have two children.
On July 1, 2000, Major General Ron Chastain became Commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard. The 39th is designated as one of 15 Enhanced Brigades, which are manned, equipped, and trained to a high level of readiness for rapid response upon call from the President. The 39th Brigade is headquartered in Little Rock with units located in 47 communities around the state.
In October of 2003, the 3,000 soldiers making up the 39th Infantry Brigade began four months of additional training at Fort Hood, Texas, in preparation for an 18 month deployment to Iraq. They shipped out to Iraq the following March. Chastain commented, "We haven't had an infantry National Guard Brigade to deploy into a war zone since World War II. So, it's quite an honor that he 39th Brigade would be the one selected for that mission."
Previously, a portion of the 153rd Infantry, National Guard unit Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry (Gunslingers), served a six-month peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Region of Egypt in 2002 as part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai region to assist in enforcement of the 1979 Camp David Peace Accord treaty between Egypt and Israel. They comprised the first pure National Guard unit to take on such duty, and were chosen because of the superior ratings the unit has maintained.
The 39th returned home from Iraq in March and April, 2005. 33 members were killed during their deployment. “When you lose four people from one company in a rocket attack, that’s pretty devastating,” General Chastain said. “Our soldiers have been through a lot. Roadside bombs posed the greatest danger to 39th Brigade soldiers, causing multiple casualties. In one incident, three soldiers were killed by a blast while responding to wounded personnel from another attack. In late January, a huge explosion ripped open the bottom of an M1 tank."
After the 39th returned home, the Arkansas National Guard provided this information:
General Chastain, originally of Paris, graduated from County Line High School in Branch in 1968 and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the United States Army Reserve after graduating from the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville in 1972. General Chastain served in a variety of command and staff positions before assuming command of the 39th Infantry Brigade in July 2000.
On October 12, 2003, the 39th Brigade was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Comprised of 3,000 soldiers from Arkansas and 1,200 soldiers from nine other states, the brigade deployed to Iraq in March 2004 as part of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. Based at Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad, and in the Green Zone, the mission of the 39th Brigade Combat Team was to conduct security and stabilization operations. The unit completed its 18-month tour of duty this month.
The 39th Brigade trained Iraqi national guardsmen and protected voters during the January 30 Iraqi elections, and served in various jobs while stationed in Iraq. Some served with an engineering company working to build a school for Iraqi children.
In early August, 2005, after five years of leading the unit's 3500 soldiers, General Ronald Chastain turned over command of the 39th brigade to Colonel Mike Ross, who had served as the number two man during the brigade's tour to the middle east. Major General Chastain assumed the duties as the Chief of Staff (Wartime), United States Forces, Korea, in October 2005, and received federal recognition as a Major General of the Line on October 17, 2005.
In May of 2006, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appointed Major General Ron Chastain to lead the 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, replacing Major General Don C. Morrow who announced his retirement in April as adjutant general of the state Guard. Ron Chastain resigned his position as Chief of Staff (Wartime), United States Forces, Korea and retired from his civilian job at the U. S. Department of Agriculture in order to take the helm of the Arkansas Military Department. He took over the position on July 15, 2006.
The change occurred late in Governor Huckabee's term as governor, and Huckabee expressed the hope that the next governor would honor the appointment as a military appointment rather than viewing it merely as a political one. The gubernatorial candidates applauded the appointment, but once in office, in January of 2007, the new Governor, Mike Beebe, named Major General Bill Wofford to replace Ron Chastain as adjutant general for the Arkansas National Guard, even though as a gubernatorial candidate he approved the Chastain appointment. As a civilian, Wofford worked as director of operations in the attorney general's office when Beebe occupied that post.
Major General William D. Wofford assumed command on March 5, 2007, so that Ron Chastain's tenure was less than eight months. Generals Chastain and Wofford happen to be old friends, but Ron Chastain expressed disappointment that the position was treated politically. "I had hoped that the National Guard being so heavily involved in operations throughout the world, that this position would be nonpolitical." He added, "I believe my removal sends the wrong message to our soldiers and veterans." In February, 2007 General Chastain took his new assignment as deputy commander, U.S. Forces Command, where he will be the National Guard's voice in the Army's major command that is responsible for mobilizing and deploying Army units.
National Guard Biography
See various articles in Chastain Military News.
Chastain Central is unsure of the occasion, but at some point, General Ron Chastain distributed a 39th Infantry coin or medal. On the front is a white sword on a red and black background. 39th Infantry Brigade is written at the top, and The Arkansas Brigade is written at the bottom. On the reverse side are some emblems and the following words: Presented by Ronald S. Chastain Commanding General, followed by his signature.