February 5, 2010 - It sounds like the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 724th Engineer Battalion will be having a real blast this weekend. The battalion - Headquarters Company in Chippewa Falls, Company A (Forward Support) in Hayward, the 273rd Engineer Company (Sapper) in Medford and 950th Engineer Company (Clearance) in Spooner and Superior - is training at Camp Blanding, Fla., a National Guard facility, in preparation for its upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This weekend, that training includes explosives.
Military engineer units are often required to work with explosives for demolition missions, which can include clearing enemy landmines or fortifications.
The Camp Blanding Joint Training Center warned area residents that "louder-than-normal" explosions may be heard in the area surrounding a bombing range at the camp during daylight hours. The charges will be detonated in "safe, secluded areas posing no danger to the public," the alert stated.
Soldiers assigned to the 724th Engineer Battalion will report on active duty to their perspective armories in early March before traveling to Fort McCoy, Wis., where they will conduct several weeks of mobilization training before deploying overseas. The mobilization, including time scheduled for additional training at McCoy, is expected to last about one year. The Soldiers will spend about 10 months of the year-long mobilization in Iraq.
The 724th Engineer Battalion last mobilized to Iraq in March 2003 to July 2004 where they provided engineer support to coalition forces. Two subordinate units of the 724th recently returned from overseas deployments. The 829th Engineer Company (Vertical), with units in Chippewa Falls, Richland Center and Ashland deployed with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. And the 951st Engineer Company (Sapper) deployed to Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, every unit in the Wisconsin National Guard has deployed Soldiers and Airmen in support of the global war on terrorism.