Approximately a dozen Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers are back on U.S. soil in time for the holidays after a nine-month deployment to Kuwait and Iraq.
More than 120 additional Soldiers from their unit, the Madison, Wisconsin-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation, remain deployed overseas for the holidays and are slated to return this winter.
Last winter, two groups of Soldiers from the 147th deployed – a group of approximately 100 from Companies A and D in February, followed by more Soldiers from the battalion’s headquarters and Companies D and E in April.
The first of those deployed Soldiers returned to Fort Hood, Texas Dec. 16 and 18 where they are completing demobilization requirements before returning to Wisconsin. While most of the unit remains in the Middle East, those that are already back on U.S. soil will be returning to Wisconsin in the coming days.
Senior leaders from the Wisconsin National Guard were on hand to greet the returning Soldiers as they got off their plane at Fort Hood, including Brig. Gen. Dave O’Donahue, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for civil support, Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the senior enlisted advisor for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Krueck.
“They were absolutely thrilled to be back in the United States,” O’Donahue said of the returning troops. “They were very happy, though clearly tired from a long flight.”
O’Donahue said that those returning described a fulfilling but dynamic and changing mission set.
“It was the utmost honor to be there to welcome them home,” he said. “We’re so proud of what they did overseas.”
Several Soldiers returned to Madison Dec. 20-21 including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dustin Baker, who completed his ninth deployment during a 17-year military career — the last two with the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
“It was by far my most interesting deployment,” Baker said. “This is the first one that I’ve been in multiple countries on a deployment. It was very dynamic, but overall it was pretty good.”
Baker said he used his prior deployment experience to help newer pilots for whom this was their first deployment. Despite the austere environment, he was able to communicate with his wife on a regular basis.
“It’s been a long year, but I’m glad I’m finally home.”
2017 has been a eventful year for the Wisconsin National Guard, which has been busy fulfilling its unique dual-mission as the state’s first military responder while simultaneously maintaining an active slate of overseas combat deployments as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.
In November, approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing returned to Madison from a deployment to Korea. Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East in September, while aviators from Detachment 5 deployed to Afghanistan in November, and approximately 35 Soldiers from West Bend’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November. Approximately 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are in the midst of deployments worldwide, and other Airmen from the 128th deployed earlier in the fall as well. Last spring, approximately 120 Soldiers from the 32nd Military Police Company returned from a deployment to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Over the past several months, the Wisconsin National Guard also deployed Soldiers and Airmen to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist with hurricane recovery efforts, and Soldiers responded to flooding over the summer in Monroe County and Burlington, Wisconsin.