Senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined family and friends at a formal sendoff ceremony June 17 for approximately 35 members of Detachment 1, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation. The deploying Soldiers will conduct medevac missions in the Middle East in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield.
The deploying group includes pilots, mechanics, crew chiefs, aircraft maintainers, supply specialists, aviation refuelers, signal support specialists and flight operations. The West Bend-based unit deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in 2010 as Company C, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation. After reorganizing as Company G, the unit deployed in 2015 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield. Approximately 40 percent of the unit has prior deployment experience.
Capt. Robert Holt, detachment commander, said the unit has been preparing for this deployment for more than a year.
“We have a tough journey ahead,” he told his Soldiers. “I’m excited and proud to be able to serve with such an outstanding team, and I appreciate all the sacrifices you have made, and the sacrifices you will make in the months to come.
“I look forward to what’s ahead of us, and fulfilling the great mission we have as medevac.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, counseled the deploying Soldiers to be patient in the coming days as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts their mobilization process.
“Life has changed,” Conde said. “Be patient with the process. It’s tough, because you’re ready to go, but you will get to do your mission.”
Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, thanked families and employers for supporting their deploying Soldiers.
“I have complete confidence that you are well trained, that you are well equipped and that you are well prepared to embark on this mission,” Mathews told the deploying Soldiers. “I also have great confidence that you will perform your mission professionally and safely, and you’re going to make Wisconsin proud.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp acknowledged that this was his first sendoff ceremony as Wisconsin’s adjutant general.
“What I have learned in a few short months is that there is one word that truly defines the National Guard from every other service,” Knapp said. “That word is community.”
Knapp said community defines the Wisconsin National Guard, and also supports it. Without that support, he said, the Guard could not accomplish its state and federal missions.
“Today, our nation is calling again and, Company G, it is your time to make Wisconsin’s communities proud — and to write the next great chapter in this organization’s history.”
In a prepared video, Gov. Tony Evers expressed his gratitude to the deploying troops.
“The Wisconsin National Guard has served our citizens here admirably during COVID-19 and has always accomplished its mission overseas,” Evers said. “It is your service and sacrifice that helps ensure the freedoms and liberties we enjoy as Americans. It is you that helps ensure that the freedoms we all enjoy are secured and passed on to the next generation. I am proud to call you our Citizen Soldiers.”
More than 1,200 Wisconsin National Guard members have been activated to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late May, more than 1,500 Guard members mobilized to support local officials in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha in preserving public safety and ensuring individuals were able to peacefully demonstrate. In April more than 2,400 Guard members were called to duty to serve as poll workers when the pandemic caused a critical shortage of volunteer poll workers across the state.
Away from Wisconsin, approximately 200 Solders from the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry are currently serving in Afghanistan, and approximately 160 Soldiers with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters element are serving in western Ukraine, overseeing multinational partner and advise training teams. Approximately 150 Soldiers from the 829th Engineer Company and another 20 from the 924th Engineer Facilities Detachment are deployed to the Middle East, and the 1967th Contracting Team is currently serving in the Horn of Africa.
The deploying Soldiers will head to Fort Hood, Texas to complete mobilization training and requirements before deploying overseas. They are projected to return from the Middle East in the spring of 2021.