Wisconsin National Guard
Nearly 150 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Monday where they will conduct about 45 days of mobilization training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Community members, family, friends and Wisconsin state and National Guard leaders participated in a formal sendoff ceremony for Soldiers of the 229th Engineer Company, from Prairie du Chien and Platteville, and the Tomah-based106th Quarry Detachment, at the Prairie du Chien High School Saturday (Aug. 25)
The 229th has prepared for the deployment since they were first notified of the mobilization in October of 2010.
"Over the last 21 months, these Soldiers here today have trained, sweat, sacrificed time and effort, for this day," Capt. Jesse Augustine, commander of the deploying unit, said at the sendoff. "I can absolutely say that I've never been more proud of a unit or organization that I've served with."
Upon completion of the mobilization training in Texas, the Soldiers will report to Afghanistan's Kandahar Province to conduct engineer construction missions.
"So once again this great nation has called upon the 229th Engineers in support of the global war on terror," said State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper. "And once again the 229th engineers have stepped forward, answered that call and are providing some of the most highly trained, highly qualified and highly motivated Soldiers in the Wisconsin National Guard to accomplish that mission.
"There are going to be countless thousands of lives, both coalition soldiers, Afghan nationals and U.S. Soldiers that you are going to affect because of the missions that you accomplish while you are in theater," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "Keep your focus on the mission, do it well and you'll do great."
Anderson also expressed his thanks to family and friends of the deploying Soldiers.
"Please let me say thank you," Anderson said. "For the support you lend and for the love that you give. Because that allows these Soldiers that are sitting down in front of you, these great Americans, these elite of the population that we have here in the United States to be able to accomplish their mission."
Prairie du Chien Mayor Dave Hemmer said he was humbled to be among present-day heroes.
"I promise that we, as a community, will hold you close to our hearts, keep you in our prayers, while you are in harm's way and support those that you are saying goodbye to for now," Hemmer said.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, said no leader wants to deploy Soldiers to a combat zone.
"We have strategic interests in Afghanistan and the decision has been made," Dunbar said. "And if you're going to engage in combat, you send the best that you have and that's what sitting right here - the 229th!"