MADISON, Wis. — An officer returns to command a unit to which she was once assigned, as her predecessor departs to take command of a unit to which he was once assigned.
Lt. Col. Shannon Hellenbrand assumed command of the unit during an Oct. 7 ceremony at the battalion headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. She follows in the footsteps of Lt. Col. Seth Kaste, who later that day took command of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 54th Civil Support Team. Both Hellenbrand and Kaste reside in Sun Prairie.
“I did not see this assignment coming,” Hellenbrand said during the ceremony. “But I know now that it was absolutely the right decision, and I’m already running at 100 miles per hour thanks to Lt. Col. Kaste, Command Sgt. Maj. [Christopher] Beron and my new teammates.”
The Recruiting and Retention Battalion has a presence in more than 70 communities statewide to bring recruits into the Wisconsin Army National Guard. Recruiters determine the eligibility of potential recruits for military service, help them select a military occupation, coordinate their basic and advanced training dates, and prepare recruits to attend those training courses.
Kaste praised the members of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion in his final words as their commander.
“The man and women in the Recruiting and Retention Battalion are some of the best leaders and finest Americans I’ve had the privilege to serve with,” Kaste said. “They are passionate, honest, hungry, funny, relentless and motivated. They spearhead the strength management mission, and I’m honored to have called you all teammates for the past four years.
“Lt. Col. Hellenbrand, I wish you the best of luck in your command,” he continued. “I know you have a great team around you and you will all do your best wherever you go.”
Kaste said he learned the impact made on the Wisconsin Army National Guard by its recruiters, and how the state relies on them to continue its legacy.
“It’s not often that an officer is taken out of command early to take command of another unit,” said Brig. Gen. Matthew Strub, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army. “Things have changed. I need — no, the Wisconsin Army National Guard needs — Lt. Col. Kaste to command the 54th Civil Support Team.”
The 54th Civil Support Team, consisting of Army and Air National Guard members, is designed to rapidly deploy, assist local first-responders in determining the nature of an attack or hazardous materials scenario, and provide medical, communications, technical support and advice.
Strub said that the Recruiting and Retention Command needed another dynamic and creative leader to follow Kaste in a very difficult recruiting environment.
“Lt. Col. Hellenbrand is that leader,” Strub said. “Like I said earlier, we’re in difficult times. But I am confident we are able to attack that challenge head on, and thrive with you in command. Shannon, you are the right officer at the right time for this command. RRB, you’re in good hands with her leadership.”
Strub emphasized the vital role the Recruiting and Retention Battalion plays in ensuring the Wisconsin Army National Guard has the Soldiers needed to perform its missions.
“The Wisconsin Army National Guard exists to defend our state and nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Strub said. “And we in the Guard are the nation’s primary defense and the defenders of the homeland. However, over the last 20 years we have been an operational force. We have been full partners with our active duty counterparts in the fight against terrorism. And in the last two and a half years, we’ve been fully engaged here in the state of Wisconsin.
“Why do I talk about that? Because none of that would be possible without the RRB and what you do, day in and day out,” Strub continued. “Nothing we do as the Wisconsin Army National Guard would be possible without you and your teammates. You matter more than you know, and you matter more than most people will understand.”
Both officers assume commands of units where they have previously served. Kaste spent seven years with the 54th CST as former operations officer and deputy commander prior to joining the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. Hellenbrand served as recruit sustainment program coordinator, marketing officer, officer recruiter, Company A commander and battalion executive officer. She returns to recruiting from the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, where she also served as commander.