MADISON, Wis. --
While 3,200 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers were patiently waiting there chance at history, as the largest Army National Guard deployment from Wisconsin since World War II, a distinct group of military, legislative and civic leaders were also awaiting their time for a historic moment.
During the 32nd Brigade's sendoff ceremony Feb. 17 at the Alliant Energy Center, Governor Jim Doyle, along with federal and state delegates, state and national support agencies and Reserve component branch chiefs, signed a Wisconsin Military-Community Covenant pledging a joint effort between military and civilian agencies to provide support and care for Wisconsin's service members and their families. A covenant between so many different agencies, military services and signed by so many legislative figures is thought by some to be the first of its kind.
When you have a Governor, two senators, congressman and chiefs of all the reserve components, all penning their name to one document ... that's pretty significant," said Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, Chief, U.S. Army Reserve. "I don't think it's ever happened before and I think that makes a statement to everybody that we mean what we say."
The actual covenant, which now bears the signatures of more than 20 military and civilian leaders, commits all signatories to "building programs and partnerships that support the strength, resilience and readiness of service members and their families."
Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin Adjutant General, said it's not always easy to predict the problems a returning service member or their families may encounter, but the new programs and partnerships that were formed through the covenant offer promise.
"The key here is that we are in a new era. This covenant is about resiliency, readiness and sustaining the military member through some difficult times," said General Dunbar.
"If somebody gets hurt and they're bleeding, you can see how to fix that. But often you can't see what's necessarily wrong with the psyche, so you have to have the counseling services to take care of (that)."
Collectively, Wisconsin National Guard and Reserve forces have deployed more than 12,000 service members since 2001. As this operation tempo continues, the Wisconsin Military-Community Covenant will aim to assist deploying members and their families in the future as well.
"Knowing that we have the support of the state and knowing we have the Badger Yellow Ribbon that we can call upon to help get our Soldiers and families ready, is critical in order for me to meet the demands that are being placed on (the Army Reserve) for Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa and other places around the world," said General Stultz.
While the Wisconsin Military-Community Covenant puts a tangible "promise" on service member and family support; the agencies, programs and people under Wisconsin Joint Force Headquarters' Service Member Support Branch will be carrying out the majority of those promises. The SMSB hosted a training event called "Community Resiliency: A Coordinated Effort" Jan. 13 that included many of the same support organizations that signed the covenant. The training provided a road map for the consolidated programs and services that Wisconsin's service members and their families can go to for help. For more information on the support programs offered, call Kim Sandleback, 115th Fighter Wing Personal and Family Readiness Coordinator, at 608-245-4654.
The covenant recognizes the need for these programs for the families and also for the service members. By signing it, willing participants acknowledge "the strength of our Armed Forces and the security of military families are supported by the strength of our communities."
General Stultz couldn't agree more.
"When a Soldier loses focus on his mission and is worrying about things back home, he jeopardizes not only his own life, but the lives of others. Signing this covenant today hopefully tells those 3,200 Soldiers to focus on the mission because their families are taken care of," said General Stultz. (listen