60 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers, Airmen return from deployments

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Approximately 60 Wisconsin National Guard members from three different units returned over the weekend from overseas deployments.

This latest wave of homecomings began last Thursday (Jan. 21) when approximately 30 Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Security Forces Squadron, based in Madison, arrived at the Dane County Regional Airport following a six-month deployment to Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyz Republic, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Airmen supported the 376th Expeditionary Security Squadron at Manas by performing airbase ground defense.

"Our job was security," said Staff Sgt. Philip Steffens, a member of the 115th SFS who worked in the armory while deployed. "We knew our job and did it well."

Their actions were acknowledged by the 115th Security Forces Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Brian Buhler, who welcomed them home.

"This is a wonderful example of quality Airmen successfully applying skills and techniques that they were exposed to in training at 115th FW," Buhler said. "Their accomplishments reassure us that our pre-deployment preparations were right on target and have adequately prepared our Airmen for real-world missions."

Operations at Manas began in December 2001 to support military's operational needs in Afghanistan while serving as a staging ground for the mission.

Upon returning, the Airmen promptly in-processed at Truax Field and headed home across the Midwest.

"It goes without being said that we missed the individual talent and skills of each and every security force member who volunteered for this deployment," Buhler said. "But thanks to the collaborative efforts of our traditional Airmen, full-time active guard reserve and state security officers, we were able to seamlessly fill the void of our deployed members."

The final band of Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers who deployed for the past year with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq on Sunday (Jan. 24).

The Soldiers were greeted by Wisconsin National Guard leadership and the 132nd Army Band at the Dane County Regional Airport upon their return.

Just under 20 Soldiers assigned to a "trail party" remained in Kuwait to take care of administrative and logistical details concerning the brigade's redeployment to the United States. Twelve military intelligence soldiers, assigned to the Madison-based Company B, 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, also returned from Fort Lewis, Wash., where they conducted demobilization activities following their tour in Iraq.

Sunday's arrival brings to a close the year-long saga which began Feb. 1, 2009 when the 32nd Brigade, augmented by six other Wisconsin Army National Guard units, was ordered to active duty. The brigade deployed to Iraq in April and May following two months of training at Fort Bliss, Texas. During training and while in Iraq, the brigade was organized into 27 company-sized units. Rather than operating as a brigade, the 32nd was tasked with a variety of missions throughout Iraq.

These missions included forward operating base administration, base defense, area security, quick reaction forces, freedom of movement security support, detainee guard force operations at theater internment facilities, closing the largest internment facility in Iraq, transferring detainees, operating an academy to train Iraqi corrections officers, inspecting detention facilities, securing and administering the International Zone in Baghdad, and turning over U.S.-controlled properties back the government of Iraq. The brigade's Soldiers operated around the clock, most of them working at least 12 hours a day -- day after day, week after week, for eight full months in Iraq.

The first wave of Soldiers who deployed with the 32nd Brigade returned to Wisconsin Jan. 5, but the majority of Soldiers returned on 11 flights between Jan. 11 and Jan. 18.

Sunday's returnees began their demobilization processing at Fort McCoy and are expected to be released from active duty the end of this week.