February 19, 2010 - More than 3,200 "Red Arrow" Soldiers returned to Wisconsin recently, marking the end of an historic year in the Wisconsin National Guard. In 2009, the Wisconsin National Guard deployed as many as 40 percent of our Soldiers and Airmen for combat operations. Of the units that deployed, the largest formation was the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) - Wisconsin's largest operational deployment since World War II. The 32nd IBCT is a direct descendant of the famed 32nd Red Arrow Division that served in World Wars I and II, and was mobilized for the Berlin Crisis of 1961. This record deployment completes another proud chapter in the 32nd's history and reaffirms the "Red Arrow" legacy and motto - "Forward."
2009 was a tough year for our nation. The public is understandably concerned about record deficits, bank failures, falling home values, rising unemployment, wide-spread fraud and corruption. Things were so bad in 2009 that it would be easy to focus on the things that were not working and miss some wonderful aspects of our society that are working. Wisconsin - your National Guard is working and working well.
I am proud to report to the citizens of Wisconsin that your National Guard performed superbly. Your citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen have answered the call of duty and have served magnificently. I already mentioned the 32nd IBCT, and this is a great story; however, our participation was broader and more robust in 2009.
- Six separate units from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 64th Troop Command mobilized and deployed with the 32nd IBCT - the 257th Brigade Support Battalion, the 108th Forward Support Company, the 32nd Military Police Company, the 829th Engineer Company, the 1158th Transportation Company Detachment 1, and Battery A, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery. All performed diverse missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- The 115th Fighter Wing deployed for Operation Iraq Freedom and flew more than 400 combat sorties, and the 115th Fighter Wing's security forces deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom.
- The 128th Air Refueling Wing deployed in support of both Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and flew more than 190 combat support sorties, during which they off-loaded more than 14 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft.
- About 60 members of our 128th Air Control Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia where they were responsible for command and control of the Central Command airspace.
- The 951st Combat Engineer "Sapper" Company deployed to Afghanistan and conducted route clearance operations. Difficult and demanding duty required that they seek out and neutralize improvised explosive devices and road side bombs. The 951st excelled and were constantly called upon for the most difficult assignments by their commander who knew he could rely on the unit to get the job done. This unit earned more than 100 combat action badges, 21 bronze stars (four with "V" for valor), and 15 purple hearts were awarded. Sadly, we had our only combat loss during this deployment as Sgt. Ryan Adams, a superb Soldier from Rhinelander, paid the ultimate price for his nation.
Reflective of today's more operational National Guard, we still have two units deployed - the Headquarters Company, 732nd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion (CSSB) supporting logistics operations throughout Iraq and our fourth embedded training team (ETT) deployed to Afghanistan helping to train Afghani soldiers and police officers. Later this year, we will deploy our 724th Combat Engineer Battalion and the 147th Assault Aviation Battalion.
These returning warriors will get our full attention as they transition back to civilian life. My team is fully focused on our reintegration efforts and I'm proud to report that we are partnering with Wisconsin state agencies, Veterans Affairs, and service organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to give our Soldiers and Airmen every tool we can provide to ease the sometimes difficult transition.
These Soldiers and Airmen are the best that Wisconsin has to offer.
As they return to civilian life, they bring a deep and rich experience - they will be better parents, better students, better employees, and better citizens. They have committed to something larger than themselves, understand team work and bring a leadership that has been forged under difficult conditions. I believe that this generation of veterans will return to our communities, schools, companies, industries and make profound contributions as citizens. There is something very special about men and women who risk their lives defending our freedom. I am very proud of these Guardsmen. Wisconsin - your national guard is truly exceptional. Thank you for your continued support.