MADISON, Wis. — Even in a year when the “Red Arrow” deployed hundreds of Soldiers to Florida to assist citizens in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the original Red Arrows of a century ago continue to make history.
The Wisconsin National Guard debuted an early look at its documentary about the 32nd Red Arrow Division as part of the Wisconsin World War I Centennial Commission’s “World War 100: A Centennial Symposium” Friday, Oct. 27 at Madison’s Overture Center.
The debut at the symposium’s opening reception was a condensed version of “Dawn of the Red Arrow,” a film produced by the Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office that commemorates the service of 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen in World War I.
The symposium was a two-day gathering of World War I-era historians from around the world to share their scholarship during a series of discussion panels divided by topic and interest area. Three of the panels focused on Wisconsin’s involvement in the war both on the battlefield and at home.
“Every state in our union has a World War I centennial commission and this symposium is the Wisconsin World War I Centennial Commission’s primary event to commemorate our state’s contributions to World War I,” said Dr. John Hall, Ambrose-Hesseltine Professor of U.S. Military History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and symposium organizer.
Friday evening consisted of an opening reception and a roundtable of renowned historians discussing Woodrow Wilson’s role in the war. The evening’s closing event was the debut of “Dawn of the Red Arrow.”
“We are honored to have the opportunity to show a sneak peek of our documentary at this event,” said Capt. Brian Faltinson, Dawn of the Red Arrow project officer. “Some of the leading historians of World War I were in the audience and we were able to share with them the 32nd Division’s outstanding story.”
The documentary is part of the Wisconsin National Guard’s two-year commemoration campaign of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division and its service in World War I. The war is considered the origin of the modern Wisconsin National Guard and its dual mission of first military responder to the homeland and our nation’s primary combat reserve.
“Almost every one of the 65 Wisconsin communities currently hosting a Wisconsin National Guard unit provided a company to the 32nd Division when it was formed for World War I,” Faltinson said. “Unit names and insignia may change, but the legacy of the Red Arrow in Wisconsin endures.”
The team showed a condensed 25-minute version of the film, followed by a question-and-answer session with the production team and Lt. Col. Michael Hanson, the executive officer of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team — the unit that carries the Red Arrow’s legacy into its second century.
“This film pieces together historical material and script, which I see as a tapestry of sound and story,” said retired Lt. Col. Gary Thompson, who introduced the film and wrote its script, “The 32nd Division is our heritage and we are their legacy, and we look at it that way.”
The audience during the session complimented the film and asked questions regarding certain units, the role of Michigan in the 32nd Division, how the division was formed within the state, as well as when the film would be finished.
“We are still working on the entire film and we want to reserve the full debut for members of the Wisconsin National Guard sometime next year,” Faltinson said.
Faltinson also presented an academic paper during one of Saturday’s history panels, entitled, “The Finest Body of Men Ever Seen: Wisconsin’s Communities Build the 32nd ‘Red Arrow’ Division.”
“Communities all over the state provided 15,000 volunteer Guardsmen to the U.S. Army ready to train to become 32nd Division,” Faltinson said as he described the subject of his presentation. “The Guard could not have accomplished that without the strong support of Wisconsin’s communities and the story of that support continues today.”
Video of the question-and-answer session of the production team and Faltinson’s symposium presentation is available at the Wisconsin National Guard’s Dawn of the Red Arrow Facebook page.
The Red Arrow continues to fulfil its mission 100 years later. Approximately 650 Red Arrow troops recently returned from Florida where they provided humanitarian relief, security and traffic control support to communities in the wake of Hurricane Irma as well. In addition, Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing, 115th Fighter Wing and Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria this fall.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously continues its mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. Soldiers of the West Bend-based 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East Sept. 30. 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.