Wisconsin National Guard
Approximately 30 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade have left Wisconsin today (Nov. 4) for about 10 days of mobilization training at Fort Benning, Ga., before arriving in Bosnia and Kosovo, where they will serve as part of NATO headquarters in Bosnia and Pristina, Kosovo.
The deploying Soldiers will work for the U.S. commander assigned to the KFOR NATO headquarters overseeing the international peace-keeping mission, which is to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens in Kosovo.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar acknowledged, during a sendoff ceremony Thursday (Nov. 3) at the Richards Street Armory in Milwaukee, that many people may not be aware of the United States' continuing commitment to Kosovo. He recounted the turmoil the former nation of Yugoslavia experienced following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"All heck broke out in the early 1990s," Dunbar said. "There was a lot of bloodshed and a lot of fighting along religious lines."
The United States became involved, and helped broker the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995. Since then, U.S. troops have been helping keep the peace in Kosovo and Bosnia.
"This is the United States of America honoring its commitment," Dunbar said. "In World War I and World War II, in that very part of the world, millions of people died in bloodshed. And since we stepped in, a few handful have died. We've been keeping the peace."
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch recognized the Soldiers for their service.
"I am thankful that the brave men and women of the 157th MEB are prepared to ensure peace in all ways in Bosnia and Kosovo as guardians of freedom and ambassadors of our great country," she said. "It is with courage and with pride that they protect a people, make permanent a calm, spread goodwill, and continue to sow the seeds of liberty."
She presented Lt. Col. Chris Klatt, officer in charge of the deploying Soldiers, with a state flag.
"I hope you will fly it with great pride so that the world knows that champions from Wisconsin don't just play in Lambeau [Field]," she said. "They also defend us every single day in the Wisconsin National Guard."
Klatt thanked the Soldiers taking part in the deployment and the people of Wisconsin for their support. He also thanked the families of the Soldiers.
"They serve right along with us," he said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, agreed.
"When we talk about the Guard family, we talk about not only those in uniform, but the families and the children that serve right alongside our Soldiers," he said. "I want to say thank you for your love and support for your Soldiers. I know full well, and you know, that they could not do what they have done up to this time, and what they are about to embark upon again, without your support, without your love, and without your commitment. And my commitment to you and to the Soldiers is that we are not only here for the Soldiers, but we are here for the families."
Dunbar said that the Wisconsin National Guard has a robust family support network.
"I'm giving my personal pledge that everybody at home is here for your family, so that you can focus on your mission," he told the troops. "I want the families to know that there's nothing too big, nothing too small that we won't give you everything we have. We are a family and we're here for you."
Anderson said the deployment experience of the Kosovo-bound Soldiers would serve them well. State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper urged the younger Soldiers to draw on the deployment experience around them.
"Let them guide you through those instances that you're going to come up against," he said. "The first birthday away from home, the first anniversary away from home. They've been there, they've done it - they've made it through. They'll guide you, also.
"I ask you to do what we do best as Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers," Stopper continued. "Go forth and show the rest of the country exactly what you're made of. Show the world just how phenomenal it is to be a Soldier in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. Go forth and be great representatives to the rest of the world."
The 157th MEB has already mobilized approximately 180 members for a different role in the KFOR mission. The brigade's Headquarters Company and members of the 32nd Military Police Company left Wisconsin Sept. 16, and members of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment and the 248th Aviation Support Battalion followed Sept. 24. Those Soldiers are training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, in preparation for their deployment, where they will serve as the brigade headquarters unit for Multi-National Battle Group East, also referred to as Task Force Falcon.