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On Guard – Already Ready

Aug. 11, 2014

By Staff Sgt. Joseph Rasmussen, Wisconsin Army National Guard

August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month

August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month

August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Rasmussen is a DMA Section Marshal assigned as a human resources sergeant with the Wisconsin Army National Guard in Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs trains section marshals from each tenant office in order to reinforce emergency action planning and to assist supervisors in executing emergency action plans and accountability procedures.

While training near Boston in June, I was able to visit some of the sites that were cradle to our great nation. As a Guardsman, it definitely hit home standing near Concord Bridge, next to the Minuteman statue where “once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.” I was, unfortunately, also reminded of a darker and more disconcerting side of Boston’s recent history. While on a run one evening, I passed by the federal facility where the man suspected of killing three and injuring more than 160 at the Boston Marathon is being held until he faces trial.

All of my Boston experiences were reminders to me of the expectations that are upon each and every one of us in the National Guard—civilians and service members alike. We are expected to be minute-men and –women, prepared and willing to act and respond on a moment’s notice—whether we’re fighting tyranny, inclement weather, homegrown violent extremism, a train derailment, or acts of terrorism from abroad.

It’s easy to think that terror attacks would never strike our Wisconsin communities, but it has before (like at UW-Madison’s Sterling Hall), and we cannot afford to be blissfully ignorant to the threats that are out there.

Terrorists specifically target civilians in hopes of inspiring fear and chaos in our everyday lives.

When we acknowledge that the practice of targeting civilians is out there, the proactive question then becomes: How can we prepare against terrorism?

Any athlete will tell us that to be successful we must practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more – until it becomes muscle memory. In our profession, it is sometimes hard to know what to practice for, but success stories from after action reviews in the aftermaths of tragedies around the world show that it is surprisingly simple: Know your surroundings, know antiterrorism strategies, evacuation procedures, emergency protocols, and know the tools you have at-hand.

At work, will your chair break through that window if you need to evacuate your office? Where is the nearest fire extinguisher? How about the automated external defibrillators?

When travelling, pay attention to your surroundings and give some thought to how you can protect yourself. Think about which floor you book your hotel room and keep an eye on your luggage or report suspicious luggage or activities.

Even at home, there are simple security measures that you can implement that might keep your family safe. We are also vulnerable to cyber threats, so ensure you take measures to protect your computer systems.

For more information and tips about how to prepare and protect yourself and your family from potential emergencies, visit http://readywisconsin.wi.gov

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VJ Day: A shining moment for 32nd Division

August 15, 2014

Soldiers of the 32nd Division cross a river during combat operations in the South Pacific during World War II.

Soldiers of the 32nd Division cross a river during combat operations in the South Pacific during World War II.

The United States and its allies achieved total victory and unconditional surrender from the Japanese on Aug. 15, 1945 – Victory over Japan Day. While the formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri several weeks later on Sept. 2, the war was over, bringing years of fighting to a close.

For the millions of U.S. service members who had stormed the beaches of the South Pacific or Normandy, flew sorties in hostile skies, froze in foxholes outside of Bastogne, or swatted mosquitoes in the jungles of New Guinea, VJ Day was especially sweet. Hostilities had ended in Europe several months before.

The Second World War was among the 32nd Infantry Division’s finest hours, and it spent more days fighting the Japanese than any other division in the war. Made up of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin and Michigan, the 32nd had been trained to fight a mechanized war in Europe – a far cry from the jungle warfare that defined its campaign in the Pacific.

The men of the Red Arrow were untrained in jungle warfare when they arrived in Australia in May 1942, awaiting orders to New Guinea. The 32nd became the first American infantry unit ordered into combat for the American counter-offensive in the Pacific, and elements of it became the first troops ever airlifted into combat, when they were flown over the Owen Stanley Mountains in New Guinea.

The Red Arrow ultimately fought in six major engagements and four campaigns totaling 654 days of combat – more than any other American division during World War II. The unit’s combat operations took them from the Buna Campaign and several other operations in New Guinea to the Philippines and ultimately to the Japanese home islands in the weeks following VJ Day.

All told, Soldiers of the Red Arrow earned 11 Medals of Honor, 157 Distinguished Service Crosses, 49 Legion of Merit Awards, 845 Silver Stars, 1,854 Bronze Stars, 89 Air Medals, 78 Soldiers’ Medals, and 11,500 Purple Hearts.

While these feats sound impressive, the 32nd paid dearly for its gains in the Pacific. In the Buna Campaign alone, the division of 9,825 men, suffered roughly the same amount of casualties, two-thirds due to illnesses like malaria, dengue fever, jungle sores, rotting feet, ringworm and dysentery. Buna proved to be one of the most desperate and brutal campaigns of the war.

The division was instrumental in re-taking the Philippines – living up to its nickname earned the First World War – “Les Terribles.”

Even though the war ended with VJ Day, the 32nd remained in Japan as an occupying force until 1946, when it was finally inactivated and sent home to Wisconsin and Michigan.