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Serving Wisconsin for 179 years

March 5, 2016

By Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general

Soldiers from the 32nd Division in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.

Soldiers from the 32nd Division in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.

Last year, we unveiled a new Wisconsin National Guard flag that honors the history and heritage of our storied organization.

Our new Colors pay homage to the regimental colors of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the famed Iron Brigade, which also counted the 6th and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments among its ranks – all of which were early predecessors to what we know today as the Wisconsin National Guard. The Iron Brigade remains one of the most storied units in American military history – noted for its tenacity in battle and for suffering the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the Civil War.

The flag was requested by our soldiers to reflect their Wisconsin connection as our units wished to fly Wisconsin colors in addition to ‘Old Glory.”

Countless battle streamers have been earned by units of the Wisconsin National Guard, including familiar names like Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Antietam and Chancellorsville which invoke the proud history of our earliest call to preserve the Union.

Today, we celebrate the 179th birthday of the Wisconsin National Guard. Some 11 years before Wisconsin attained its statehood in 1848, Citizen Soldiers began forming what would become the Wisconsin National Guard. On March 5, 1837, Henry Dodge, governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, commissioned Morgan L. Martin, of Green Bay, as a captain and the commander of the Green Bay Rangers volunteer company of mounted riflemen.

The Wisconsin National Guard evolved over time, and it wasn’t until 1879 that Wisconsin’s adjutant general first referred to the state’s militia as the “National Guard,” but since 1837, the Wisconsin National Guard has been ready to respond to threats and emergencies here on our own soil and in combat against our nation’s enemies.

Our legacy is reflected in our history, which includes not only state response, but also combat operations. These operations are reflected in the battle streamers. In addition to the heroic legacy of the Iron Brigade’s “Black Hat Boys,” who served at places like Fredricksburg and Bull Run, other campaign streamers mark service in the Spanish American War and the storied lineage of the 32nd Infantry Division in World War I and II.

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A Soldier from the 32nd Division peers over the top of a trench during World War I.

Streamers from Meuse-Argonne, Aisne-Marne and others mark the division’s service in World War I, where the French dubbed the men of the 32nd “Les Terribles” because of their ferocious fighting ability. Their success on the battle field in World War I earned the division the iconic “Red Arrow” patch, which illustrates that the division pierced every enemy line it encountered in the war. The Red Arrow is still worn by the men and women of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team today.

The 32nd was again called to combat in World War II, where it earned campaign streamers for its service in the Philippines and New Guinea.

By the 1950s, Airmen from the newly formed Wisconsin Air National Guard were flying in the skies above the Korean Peninsula.

Still more streamers were added from Southwest Asia, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in the wars that followed the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A Soldier from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team mans an M-240B machine gun while serving in Iraq in 2009.

A Soldier from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team mans an M-240B machine gun while serving in Iraq in 2009.

This is the lineage of today’s Wisconsin National Guard, and it demonstrates the noble service of our organization as the primary combat reserve of the United States Army and Air Force. Yet what those campaign streamers do not capture is the other half of our unique dual-mission as the first military responder here in the homeland.

Since 1837, the Wisconsin National Guard has served the people of Wisconsin in times of crisis and emergency. Time and time again, the same men and women who have fought valiantly in combat for our nation, have simultaneously answered the community’s call when disaster strikes.

You can find the Soldiers and Airmen of this proud organization assisting in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes, battling floods and wildfires and responding in the face of snow emergencies. You can count on their adaptability to fight unique threats like the Avian Flu, the spread of Ebola or to serve in times of civil unrest.

We are a proud part of the national treasure that is the Guard.

We have been Always Ready, Always There for 179 years, and we will continue to be ready to answer the call in the years ahead.

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Always Ready, Always There, for 379 years

Dec. 13, 2015

By Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the adjutant general

Dec. 13, 2015 is the 379th birthday of the National Guard.

Dec. 13, 2015 is the 379th birthday of the National Guard.

This Sunday, we will observe the 379th birthday of the National Guard. The date commemorates “The First Muster,” when three regiments of volunteer militia were formed on Dec. 13, 1636 in Massachusetts Bay Colony for the purpose of becoming a well-trained and capable defense force.

There is a distinct pride that comes with that heritage, belonging to the long line of our homeland’s defenders. This heritage precedes by nearly seven score years the birth of our nation and the establishment of our Army and Navy as a national military.

The early American militia sought to ensure territorial integrity against incursions by domestic or international powers, and today’s Army and Air National Guard also defend the homeland against foreign and domestic threats. In the 21st century, this role has grown to include the cyber realm, and the National Guard is leading the way in building cyber protection teams across the nation, partnering with local, state and federal agencies in safeguarding critical infrastructure from cyber attacks that could halt or diminish critical services.

The National Guard continues to hone its emergency response role. Beyond responding to devastating stoms, wildfires, floods and civil unrest, the National Guard also has specialized teams to support local authorities in identifying potential weapons of mass destruction as well as rescuing and recovering victims of natural and man-made disasters. We are the nation’s first military responders, and we work closely with local authorities — even conducting periodic and realistic training — to ensure that our response efforts are appropriate to the event. The National Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how important a trained and ready response force truly is in a large-scale emergency.

And dating back to the Spanish-American War, the National Guard has played an increasingly important role as the nation’s primary combat reserve supporting our overseas operations. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the National Guard validated the Abrams Doctrine of a total force concept — reserve component units serving shoulder-to-shoulder with active duty counterparts. And since 9/11, the National Guard has proven its intrinsic value to our nation by defending our skies, collaborating in multi-agency anti-terror efforts such as Joint Task Force Empire Shield in New York City, and deploying overseas to support such operations as Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.

Our National Guard has never been better trained or more experienced than it is today. This is fortunate, as our responsibilities to the homeland show no signs of diminishing. But maintaining our readiness to respond where we are needed in a timely manner is not easy. We need quality men and women to fill our ranks. We need the support of families and employers who understand and are willing to sacrifice having their service member at home or on the job in those moments when their state or nation calls. And we need appropriate funding to maintain troop strength and training in a time of increasing peril at home and abroad.

The Citizen-Soldier is part of the fabric of our nation, and embodies the noble characteristic of service before self that has always enabled our nation to endure in good times and bad. 379 years of service is something to be proud of, and I am proud of each and every one of our soldiers and airmen in the Wisconsin National Guard.