MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin National Guard stepped into a variety of roles to support the City of Milwaukee during the Milwaukee Bucks’ historic Game 6 NBA championship victory and also at the team’s celebratory parade.
Nearly 200 Guardmembers either hosted three game-day COVID-19 vaccine clinics, conducted a pre-game F-16 fly-over, or assisted the Milwaukee Police Department with safety operations during the July 20 game and the July 22 victory parade.
“The Wisconsin National Guard is always prepared to assist our state’s communities with public safety efforts when requested,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s 31st Adjutant General, said. “We were fortunate to be able to support Milwaukee’s celebrations and to support Wisconsin on such a happy historic occasion. Both the game and the parade drew an unprecedented crowd of 100,000 people into downtown Milwaukee. Troops from the Madison-based 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry and Appleton-based 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry assisted local law enforcement in a variety of roles that facilitated a safe experience for Bucks fans.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Saviola, a member of the 105th, explained that everyone was incredibly friendly throughout Tuesday night when he helped direct traffic outside of the Fiserv Forum.
“I received lots of thank yous and fist-bumps,” stated Saviola. Pfc. National Lugo, a 105th Cavalry medic, directly saw the relevance of his skills when he administered first aid to a fan who fell from a 20-foot ledge.
“I can really see the importance of our role in the community, I am glad I was able to help,” said Lugo, who administered first aid until an ambulance arrived.
Lt. Col. Matthew McDonald, the 105th Cavalry commander, expressed how happy he was to see his Soldiers experience first-hand what it means to serve the people of Wisconsin. His troops also provided front-line traffic and crowd control support to the victory parade with most troops stationed along the parade route.
“I’m glad to see them employed downtown where they can see their relevance in the community,” stated McDonald.
When asked if he was a Bucks fan?
“I was absolutely cheering for them alongside my Soldiers on Tuesday night,” said McDonald.
In addition to ensuring the physical safety of fans, Guard personnel also continued with the Wisconsin National Guard’s COVID-19 mission by setting up a game day mobile vaccine clinic in the Fiserv Forum’s Deer District outdoor fan celebration area. The short-notice and unique nature of the mission required significant planning.
“My non-commissioned officers drew from their professional development and knowledge of their craft to ensure we were able to set up this clinic with less than a day’s notice,” stated Capt. David Eischen, a physician’s assistant who has been deployed in support of the Wisconsin National Guard’s COVID-19 response since March 2020.
In addition to the COVID-19 mission, the Wisconsin National Guard has supported over a dozen emergency response missions throughout Wisconsin and elsewhere over the past year. This unprecedented level of support has built a great deal of knowledge and flexibility within the organization to respond on short notice.
“I have definitely gotten better at being flexible after serving on several missions this year,” said Lugo.
Saviola acknowledged that serving in the National Guard certainly requires flexibility and getting those last minute calls to respond can be stressful but that it is well worth the opportunity to be a part of a historic moment.
“In the end, we all get to look back and say that we were here,” stated Saviola.
Eischen commented that the morning began like most other days and then the request for three mobile vaccination teams came down.
“And by the end of it our teams were participating in a historic event for Wisconsin alongside tens of thousands of ecstatic Bucks’ fans,” Eischen said.
Lt. Col. Will Dean, a pilot with Madison’s 115th Fighter Wing, made a pre-flight video that was shown in the Fiserv Forum before his F-16 pre-game flyover mission over the Deer District. The video captured the excitement of the thousands of fans who would later enjoy the Bucks’ historic win.
“Bucks in six!” exclaimed Dean.
Master Sgt. Paul Gorman assisted with this report.