by Col. Todd Nehls
President, Wisconsin National Guard Association
What a weekend!!! As thousands of NGAUS members, guests and exhibitors departed Milwaukee, they left behind accolades and thanks for what has been “the best NGAUS conference since 1998” when we hosted the last time. Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, and the leadership team surpassed any and all expectation our guests had and the hospitality provided by Wisconsin will be the metric for future conferences. A big thank-you to the dozens of volunteers, enlisted members and retirees for playing a critical role in the execution of the plan which resulted in as flawless of a conference as one could deliver.
The weather was prime as our guests enjoyed rounds of golf or took part in the first-ever NGAUS Freedom Ride, led by our own Gov Scott Walker and Gen. Dunbar. I have also witnessed and can confirm that there are hundreds of people walking around with tattoos they did not have when the arrived in Milwaukee as we literally “painted” our guests with Harley-Davidson art during the governor’s reception.
Of course, there was serious business to attend to as well, as speaker after speaker reinforced our conference theme – The National Guard: Right for America. Whether it was the emotional plea to elevate the Chief of the National Guard Bureau (CNGB) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the NGAUS Chairman of the Board Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, or the promise the Guard will be a full partner in our nation’s defense by newly appointed NORTHCOM Commander, Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., or the assurance by Adm. Sandy Winnefeld Jr, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff that the National Guard will not be relegated back to an unfunded, ill-equipped strategic reserve, our slate of guests and speakers provided a great roadmap for the future of the Guard. The ability to attract so many senior leaders surely was a result not only of the importance and strength of NGAUS but the fact they could come to Milwaukee and enjoy Wisconsin hospitality.
Of course, throughout the conference we had the East Coast in our thoughts and prayers as hundreds could not be with us, for duty called and they did what they do best, defend the homeland from Irene, providing the professional support to our local first responders, responding to the call of their states for valuable assistance protecting life and property.
Lastly, we owe a great deal of thanks and respect to our Visit Milwaukee and corporate partners who provided the resources which allowed Wisconsin to set a new benchmark of hospitality for NGAUS. For all those who supported the cause, THANK YOU - you made Wisconsin proud and proved yet again, the Wisconsin National Guard is the best National Guard in the nation.