War on Terrorism

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Senior Wisconsin Guard leaders visit deployed troops

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Wisconsin Army National Guard senior leaders have found that 2010 has been a busy but productive and successful year for Wisconsin Guard units deployed in Iraq. Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and Command Sgt. Major George Stopper, the Wisconsin Army Guard's senior non-commissioned officer, visited the 724th Engineer Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment Dec. 7-9. They found both units engaged in a brisk operation tempo as they assumed greater areas of responsibility as a result of troop reductions in Iraq.

"The sheer number of missions has increased tremendously," Anderson said. "They're taking it in stride. Senior commanders were extremely complimentary."

The 724th heads up Task Force Badger, the sole combat engineer asset in Iraq, which in addition to Wisconsin consists of National Guard Soldiers from Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, and active component Soldiers as well. The 724th has about two months remaining on its deployment.

The 147th supports the lone aviation brigade in Iraq, and conducts such missions as command and control, quick reaction force, troop movement and general support. The 147th is about halfway through its deployment.

Both Anderson and Stopper pointed out how the 724th and 147th significantly improved the operation and availability of theater-based equipment inherited from previous units, and the high level of morale even as the troop drawdown requires relocation from one base of operations to another. Elements of the 147th, for example, have already moved three times.

"They recognize the fluidity of the situation," Anderson said.

That fluidity may lead to challenges in the future, Stopper said.

"It's not just combat units we're downsizing," he explained. "Everything else we had gotten used to is downsizing. The supply lines are changing - before, it was just stuff coming in. Now it's also stuff going out."

"Organizations need to position themselves for when the inevitable happens," Anderson said. "There will be a tipping point where parts are not available."

Both leaders also commented on a significant change since their last visit, one that was obscured by the relative calm in Iraq today.
"It didn't hit me until we left - the absolute absence of armored combat vehicles," Stopper said. "No tanks, no Bradleys [or] armored personnel carriers on bases, only the route clearing vehicles. There's still security on the bases, but it's obvious it's a new day in Iraq."

Anderson said that Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers clearly understand "where they are at, with moving away from kinetic operations to host nation support. They are embracing their mission during a very turbulent time due to the retrograde operations. They have the right attitude."

Stopper agreed.

"During our visit, I did not have a single Soldier from either organization who complained," he said. "The morale is awesome."

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