First Lady Tonette Walker and Gov. Scott Walker hosted more than 750 Wisconsin National Guardsmen, military veterans and their families at the Executive Residence in Madison, Wisconsin Oct. 1 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd “Red Arrow” Division — whose heritage is carried today by the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team — and the 70th Anniversary of Wisconsin’s Air National Guard.
“We live in the home of the free because of each and every one of you in uniform and all that you represent, not only here in this state, but across this country,” Gov. Walker said, addressing the crowd.
Gov. Walker also recognized the service of the family members in the crowd.
“Thanks to all the family who are here for all that you do and endure,” Gov. Walker said. “We truly appreciate that. We know that our men and women in the Wisconsin National Guard wouldn’t be as spectacular as they were without the full support of family and friends here in the state of Wisconsin.”
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, thanked the governor and first lady for opening their home and celebrating the Wisconsin National Guard before explaining the tradition of the National Guard and its meaning to the state’s service members, past and present.
Invoking both the Soldier and Airman creeds, Dunbar made clear that every member is 100 percent Soldier and 100 percent Airman, and yet they are more.
“If you asked all of them, ‘what’s it all about?’ every one of them will tell you, ‘I am the Guard,’” Dunbar said. “The same Guard that was there in the earliest communities in 1636, that was there at Concord in 1775, that was there at Yorktown, fought to prevent the British burn Washington D.C., stood align in Baltimore, drove the Redcoats out of New Orleans, the Civil War where Wisconsin made its first entry in defending the country and did magnificently, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam.”
Dunbar emphasized the unique dual-mission of the National Guard highlighting recent instances where the Wisconsin National Guard responded to state emergencies, including responding to flooding in Burlington, Wisconsin in July, storm damage in northern Wisconsin over the past three years, and more recently responding to hurricane relief efforts in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“It’s the same National Guard that’s on point tonight and will be on point next week, next year, and for generations to come as long as we are blessed to have that flag flying over our country,” Dunbar said.
The First Lady explained how the idea for the event came to her during a visit to Wisconsin Brewing Company who collaborated with the University of Wisconsin earlier this year to create a beer commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Red Arrow, which formed in 1917 as the 32nd Division as the U.S. entered World War I. The Wisconsin National Guard is commemorating the centennial of the Red Arrow with its ongoing Dawn of the Red Arrow campaign. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Air National Guard’s founding.
“It was at that moment when I looked back and thought we, Scott and I, really look up to all of [the National Guardsmen],” Mrs. Walker said. “We appreciate all the work that you do, everything that you do for us, that you sacrifice, that you leave your families.”
Service members and families attending the event partook in festivities with music, food, beverages, yard games and social interaction. Everything provided at the event was donated in kind to honor and celebrate the service of the Wisconsin National Guard’s service to the state and nation.
Even while the First Lady and Governor honored service members, the Wisconsin National Guard is hard at work fulfilling its role as the primary combat reserve of the United States Air Force and Army, and the first military responder in the homeland. The day before the event, Soldiers of the 248th Aviation Support Battalion had a formal sendoff for their deployment to the Middle East. Approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing deployed to Korea in August, while 110 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia in May, and more than 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are deploying worldwide to support global security operations. Another 150 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation deployed to Kuwait last spring, and 35 Soldiers from the West Bend-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation deployed to Afghanistan last winter.
Meanwhile, a mobile kitchen and a team of 16 Wisconsin Air National Guard troops left Wisconsin Sept. 29 en route to Puerto Rico, where they are assisting with the ongoing response to hurricanes that struck the island in recent weeks. The 115th Fighter Wing’s Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, or JISCC, deployed to Puerto Sept. 23 to assist with establishing satellite communications, radio interoperability and high-bandwidth connectivity for the responding military and non-military emergency responders operating there. And approximately 650 Wisconsin National Guard troops recently returned from Florida where they provided humanitarian relief, security and traffic control support to communities in the wake of Hurricane Irma.