VOLK FIELD, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker and senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined families and friends in bidding farewell to approximately 110 Airmen of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Control Squadron (ACS) during a sendoff ceremony Friday (May 12).
The unit, which manages military air traffic, will serve for several months at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia supporting the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, which supports air combat missions for Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.
“The mission we set out for will be dynamic, challenging and rewarding,” said Lt. Col. Michael Western, 128th ACS commander. “Both joint and coalition forces throughout Southwest Asia will depend heavily on our command and control to make positive gains for the war on terror. As the 128th Air Control Squadron has always done, I expect that we will take a great product and we’ll make it better.
“For a few Airmen, this will be your last deployment,” Western continued, “and what a capstone this will be as no other deployment will have the breadth of impact and the scope that this one will.”
Col. David May, Volk Field commander, noted that Western will lead the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron for a portion of the deployment.
“That’s a testament to the quality of the Air National Guard and the faith the ACS community has in you and the compatibility of this unit with the active component.” May said. “This unit has a proud legacy of excellence and exceptional performance on deployment — this being your sixth since 9/11. You now add to that legacy from this moment forward.”
Command Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Safer, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor, expressed his confidence in the deploying Airmen.
“Your mission, and each of your individual jobs, is absolutely critical to the warfight,” Safer said. “And without your boots on the ground downrange controlling that airspace, our airpower would be pretty much ineffective. You have an enormous responsibility. Maj. Gen. [Don] Dunbar and I take great comfort in knowing that the men and women of the 128th Air Control Squadron and the Wisconsin Air National Guard are on mission. Ladies and gentlemen, I sleep pretty good at night knowing that.”
Safer also challenged the deploying Airmen to seek personal improvement during the deployment.
“Operating in a deployed environment has its own unique challenges that you just can’t get anywhere else,” Safer said. “And yes, you Airmen train very, very hard, but the experiences that you will gain downrange are priceless. Take it all in, absorb it all, and learn as much as you can.”
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, addressed family members.
“I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to your loved ones,” Dunbar said. “I know from talking with many of you how proud you are of your loved one, how proud you are of the fact they wear the uniform to defend this country, and it comes through in the comments you made and the looks in your eyes. But it is absolutely true that these Airmen could not do what they do without the support of our families. Thank you for all you do.”
Dunbar told the deploying members of the 128th ACS that the unit had a well-earned reputation, but reputations are earned by the men and women wearing the uniform.
“These Airmen are ready to do this mission and this mission is important to our country, or we would not be sending them,” Dunbar said. “And make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen, there is nobody better at the business of air control than the 128th Air Control Squadron.”
Dunbar echoed May’s assurances that the Wisconsin Air National Guard would support family members while their Airmen were deployed.
Walker described an image on his cell phone taken in December while he was visiting deployed Wisconsin service members overseas — a signpost, with one sign bearing the name of the 128th ACS, pointing in the direction of Volk Field.
“It has a Wisconsin Badgers logo on one side and a Green Bay Packers logo on the other side,” Walker said, and the distance in miles from home.
“You’re going to do an exceptional job,” Walker said, before presenting Western with a state flag. “You are the best of the best, quite literally. I have seen the seamless connection between those in the Guard, the Reserve and active duty — there is no distinction once you are deployed.”
Western said that, short of deploying, the unit can do nothing more to prepare for its mission.
“We have used every means available to put ourselves in the best position possible,” Western said. “I thank you all for your diligent preparation in getting to this point. It is an honor to be part of this squadron, and I look forward to serving you all.”