The 65 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division Multi-Component Unit (DMCU) are nearing the end of their deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Soldiers of Detachment 1, Headquarters, 101st Airborne DMCU deployed to the region in early 2016 with approximately 500 other Screaming Eagles. The Guardsmen are part of a first-ever Army initiative to integrate Soldiers from the National Guard and Reserve into a single multi-component unit alongside their active duty brethren.
The 101st assumed the role of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve, where it provided command and control of coalition troops training, advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces.
During the division’s time on the ground, it collectively trained more than 23,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel on tactics ranging from battlefield medical care and rifle marksmanship, to advanced marksmanship and improvised explosive device defeat techniques. Senior leaders from the 101st also coached and mentored Iraqi leaders during the planning and execution of operations across Iraq, leading to the liberation of several key Iraqi towns and the beginning of the ongoing offensive on Mosul, Iraq, as part of the division’s advise and assist mission.
In addition, the 101st authorized more than 6,900 strikes on ISIL targets ranging from headquarters, staging areas and hideouts, to weapons caches and other key targets.
Capt. Christopher Philpot, a battle captain and liaison officer with the unit and Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldier, said he’s proud of the progress the unit made in the fight against ISIL.
“We took the fight to the enemy and when we pushed, we did it with right amount of audacity and action,” he said. “We’ve also seriously depleted the enemy’s manpower and resources to a level where it is almost unsustainable for them to fight.”
He said the experience has been a rewarding one for many of the Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers serving in the 101st.
“I have gained a lot of experience working at the division level, which for most service members in the National Guard just doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’ve met some really great people and have made some friends along the way.”
Others in the unit reflected on their service with the DMCU as well.
“There have been many ups and downs during our short time as the DMCU,” Spc. Barbara Thao said. “But overall, it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have gotten multiple opportunities to expand my military career with the opportunities to attend military schools, and I have met many people who have greatly influenced my views of what a great leader should be, and I have made friends that will last a lifetime.”
The DMCU’s deployment to Iraq marked the first combat test of the Army’s multi-component unit concept and illustrated the National Guard’s versatility as a key component of the Army’s total force as well as its primary combat reserve.
“The 101st and MCU Soldiers in particular showed that the Guard and active duty can effectively work together to accomplish the mission set forth by the Department of Defense,” Philpot said. “We met timelines, and in most cases, were ahead of schedule.”
“In the eyes of the people we worked with, most of us were at or near the same level of training and preparation as our active duty counterparts,” he added. “We showed them that people can actually work a full-time career and still keep up to the Army standards. The program worked, and we proved that.”
Staff Sgt. Gregory Palmer, also a liaison officer with the DMCU, said he thought the Wisconsin Soldiers acquitted themselves well during the mission.
“In my opinion, the unit had a strong performance throughout the deployment,” he said. “Many of the service members from Wisconsin were making their presence known for good reasons through their hard work and dedication to the mission. I would oftentimes hear about different members of the unit excelling in their position and making a difference.”
Palmer also expressed his gratitude for the vast support they received from the home front during their time overseas.
“The support I received from home was excellent,” he said. “My fiancé, family, and friends were all there for me throughout the whole experience. Even in difficult times, I knew I could rely on them to get me through and lift my spirits.”
“The support from home has been incredible,” he said. “My wife managed to complete her doctorate, have our first child and still maintain an ample supply of Sour Patch Kids and beef jerky. I’ve also gotten a lot of support from my friends and family back home.”
The Wisconsin Army National Guard continues to play an active role in military operations around the world as the Army’s primary combat reserve. Besides the Soldiers of the DMCU, which left the state in early January, the Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company is currently serving at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo.
Sgt. Katie Eggers contributed to this report.