CAMP DOUGLAS, Wis. — Two retired Soldiers and a retired adjutant general received one of the Wisconsin National Guard’s highest honors while the organization simultaneously paid homage to a current group of outstanding Soldiers and Airmen during a Sept. 5 awards banquet at Volk Field.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jerald Slack was inducted into the Wisconsin Air National Guard Hall of Fame, while retired Col. Todd Nehls and retired 1st Sgt. Robert Patrouille were inducted into the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor.
Lt. Col. G. David Brown, the emcee for the awards banquet, explained that “selection into the Air Hall of Fame or the Army Hall of Honor is one of the highest recognitions the Wisconsin National Guard can bestow upon a former Soldier or Airman, or with limited exception for heroic or extraordinary actions, a present member of the organization.”
Their inductions and honors represented a lifetime of achievement and contributions to the National Guard and its dual mission as the state’s first military responder during emergencies and its federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.
Slack joined the ranks of 67 individuals and one team who have been inducted in the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s Hall of Fame since it was established in 1982.
Slack originally enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard in 1959. In 1961 he transferred to the Wisconsin Air National Guard and earned his commission as a civil engineering officer. He completed undergraduate pilot training in 1963 and fighter interceptor training in 1964. Over the next several years, he served in a range of significant leadership positions, culminating in his appointment as the Adjutant General of Wisconsin on December 21, 1989. He served as Wisconsin’s adjutant general until his retirement in 1996.
Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Air, recognized Slack for his contributions to the Wisconsin Air National Guard. He touched on the fact that Slack was the adjutant general as Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing transitioned from A-10s to F-16 fighter jets. He also talked about Slacks contributions to Wisconsin National Guard facilities, to include the Joint Force Headquarters building which was completed in 1992 under Slack’s leadership.
“I’ve only been to a couple other state headquarters, but it’s really nice,” Ebben said. “I think everybody that’s worked in there agrees it is an outstanding facility, and really, sir, I think it’s going to be your longstanding legacy.”
Slack was appreciative for being nominated and honored for his service.
“I want to thank the committee for seeing fit to honor me with this plaque and honor,” Slack said.
He added that he’s honored to be among those who have served in the Wisconsin National Guard with distinction, including those pictured on plaques at the Joint Force Headquarters building dating back to Wisconsin’s earliest days of statehood.
Nehls and Patrouille joined 64 former Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers, one currently serving Soldier, and one retired Wisconsin Air National Guard officer in the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor, which was established in 2000.
Nehls began his career in 1978 as an infantryman assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry before attending the Wisconsin Military Academy to pursue his commission as an officer in 1983. He served in a variety of command and staff assignments at both the company, battalion, and brigade levels, including commanding a special task force for Operation Noble Badger, the airport security operation after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He eventually commanded the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 64th Troop Command before serving as the chief of staff of the Wisconsin National Guard’s joint staff. He also became the first commander of the 54th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team and was instrumental in developing the unit, which today serves as a full-time response force for incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and hazardous materials. Nehls also served as the Dodge County Sheriff in 2005 and is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, commended Nehls for helping her to step out of her comfort zone earlier in her career when they served together, and also for his professionalism and leadership.
“You have always put the Soldiers and the families first,” Mathews said to Nehls during her remarks. “You led successfully in combat. You led successfully at homeland security sites, as well as natural disasters. You are truly, truly deserving of this award.”
Nehls said he has been blessed to have two mutually supportive careers as both a Guardsman and a sheriff.
“Thank you for the recognition,” Nehls said. “Though it’s the recognition of an individual, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of warriors that contributed to my success.”
Patrouille served as the first sergeant of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry and in the Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion for 40 years. A heavily involved member of his community, Patrouille mentored and developed hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers over the course of his career in his various assignments. He also established one of the first off-site associate degree programs through Lakeland University to better the lives of Soldiers serving in the organization.
Mathews said that the nomination packet for Patrouille showed how supportive he was as a leader throughout his military career.
“It speaks volumes that you were a soldier’s soldier,” Mathews said. “It speaks about what a caring leader you were in the military and continue to be.”
Patrouille said he views this award as a reflection of his life, and that he doesn’t know where he would be if it weren’t for the Soldiers he interacted with throughout his career.
“I feel quite humble being here tonight, getting my picture on the wall with all the former NCOs and officers,” Patrouille said. “It’s a real honor in a unique group, and it’s something that I really appreciate.”
The awards banquet also honored current Soldiers and Airmen including the Wisconsin National Guard’s Soldiers and Airmen of the Year.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, compared the service and valor of those being inducted in the Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor, to Wisconsin’s current National Guardsmen who have gone above and beyond to distinguish themselves as they serve currently.
“If you want to look at the legacy that was built by those who are in the Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor, look to those who are serving now and being recognized as Soldiers and Airmen of the Year,” Dunbar said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, recognized the Army Guard’s honorees who won the annual Best Warrior Competition held each year at the state level at Fort McCoy. Madison resident Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson, of Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry, earned the title of the Soldier of the Year during the competition while Deerfield resident Sgt. Jason Wagner, of Detachment 1, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery, became the 2019 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Capt. Cody Anderson, a Grafton resident assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery is the company grade officer of the year by virtue of his selection as Wisconsin’s nominee for the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Anderson went on to become one of just 30 recipients of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award across all components of the Army.
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Safer, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, recognized this year’s Airmen of the year, including Airman of the Year Senior Airman Hannah Corbett, a Milwaukee native assigned to the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Tech. Sgt. Brandon Lutz, a 115th Fighter Wing recruiter from Mount Horeb, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Deanna Rosenberger a Sussex resident and nursing services superintendent with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, First Sergeant of the Year Master Sgt. Adam Zuniga, a Waukesha resident assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing, and Company Grade Officer of the Year 2nd Lt. Jenna Lenski, with the 128th Air Refueling Wing.