Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


National Guard unit departs state

VOLK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE — Flanked by family members and prominent state political and military figures, approximately 560 mobilized soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard received a “historic” send-off Aug. 20 at Volk Field Air National Guard Base before departing for training in Mississippi.

Standing near an airport hangar at the military facility, located near Camp Douglas in Juneau County, Gov. Jim Doyle praised the Wisconsin National Guard for performing “at the very highest level.”

“There is no duty that I have as governor of this great state [of] which I am more proud [than] to be the commander in chief of the finest citizen militia anywhere in the world — the Wisconsin National Guard,” Doyle said.


With thousands of soldiers’ families looking on, Doyle noted that the entire state stands behind those coping with the difficult departure.

“There are millions of people [in] this state who don’t know you by name, but who are praying for you, thinking of you and standing with you at this very difficult time,” Doyle said.

Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, called the mobilization of the 560-member Madison-based 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry a “historic moment.”

With the mobilization, more than 30 percent of the state’s Army and Air National Guard forces are on active duty. The number of soldiers in the Wisconsin National Guard who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, is approaching 70 percent of the total contingent.

In an interview after the ceremony, Wilkening said the high numbers demonstrate the importance and reliance the Army has on the Reserves and National Guard.

“What the Army Guard brings to the mix is that 85 percent of the National Guard [is] part-timers, so the skill sets they have at home are of great value to the active Army,” he said. “We don’t have active guard members who are licensed plumbers and electricians, schoolteachers and principals. The Army is very appreciative of that.”

After the ceremony, soldiers gathered with family members during the sunny afternoon for their final few hours in Wisconsin before boarding planes bound for Mississippi.

Soldiers will train for three months at Camp Shelby before shipping overseas, though the schedule is subject to change, according to Lt. Col. Mike Rand.

Rand said the battalion was in generally high spirits since being officially mobilized Aug. 17. He estimated 25 percent of the soldiers had completed previous tours of overseas duty.

“The guys that have been there before are anxious to go back; the guys that have not been there are a little apprehensive,” Rand said. “But I haven’t had anybody tell me they don’t want to go.”

Such willingness to serve was evident in Pvt. Robert Rieckhoff, 22, who previously served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

The send-off marked the third time Rieckhoff has been mobilized, though he has yet to go overseas. Rieckhoff hopes to break that streak this time.

“I want to go [overseas],” Rieckhoff said. “I volunteered for this.”

Later in Mississippi

UW senior Ray Weazer, one of the soldiers in Mississippi, said training has been what he expected so far, with 95-degree summer heat and high humidity presenting the major challenges.

“The humidity makes you go crazy,” Weazer said. “I’ve never drank this much water in my life.”

Weazer, who received news of his mobilization the last day of finals during the spring semester, is not worried about overseas deployment. He’s confident the troops will be well trained and says he’s “kind of looking forward to getting out of Mississippi.”

For now, however, training is on hold as the remnants of Hurricane Katrina affect the Gulf Coast, Weazer said. All soldiers at Camp Shelby, located near Hattiesburg, are accounted for and safe inside military barracks.

Despite the delay, units are expected to deploy from Mississippi on schedule.

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