Wisconsin National Guard tailgates with Packer fans

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Don Nelson
  • 115th Fighter Wing
How do you celebrate the National Guard's 373rd birthday while telling the Guard's story to 80,000 people? Bring the Army's most advance armored vehicle, the Air Guard's flight simulator, a Playstation 3 and boxes and boxes of giveaways to a Green Bay Packer game.

Recruiters and other Wisconsin National Guard members descended upon 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay armed with free t-shirts, neck lanyards and anecdotes about their Guard service. The Lambeau Field event was designed to bring together the Army and Air sides of the WING.

"The National Football League and the National Guard Bureau looked for a way for the Army and Air to get together at an game to honor the Guard's 373rd birthday," said Army First Lt. Johnny Simmons, marketing officer with the WING recruiting command. "The Army has had a booth at all Packers homes games this season, and this event was an extension of that."

Partnering on this event was the Oshkosh Corporation, makers of the Army's newest armored vehicle, the mine resistant ambush protected all-terrain vehicle, or M-ATV. Built in Wisconsin, the M-ATV on display at Lambeau allowed makers to show off their newest product. Also, soldiers who actually use the vehicles had an opportunity to give visitors first-hand knowledge of how it works in a deployed environment. This particular model had Defense Secretary Robert Gates' signature on the hood.

"We are here to recognize the armed forces and this is a great venue to do it," said Chris Yakes, an engineer with the Oshkosh Corporation.

Since being awarded the contract from the Federal government in July, the company has produced about 1,000 vehicles per month.

"A lot of civilians are curious about the vehicle and we get a lot of questions about its off-road capabilities," said Mr. Yakes. "Several people ask if they can get one for their deer camp."

Just steps away from the M-ATV, was the Air Guard's mobile recruiting unit, complete with a full 360-degree aircraft simulator where visitors get to experience a 2-minute simulated air combat scenario. The unit and simulator is most often seen at air shows and sporting events across the country. This recent visit to Lambeau was a first for a Packer game.

"We get a lot kids and adults interested in getting into the simulator," said Terry Clark, logistics coordinator for the mobile recruiting unit. "This is probably the biggest draw at events like this."

While some are drawn to large trucks and aircraft simulators, the Army knows that many others are all about the video games. At this particular event, the Army Guard recruiting office in Green Bay set up a Playstation 3 with Madden NFL 10 available for kids and adults to show their skills.

"We see this as more of a community relations thing than a recruiting event," said Sergeant First Class Jeremy Martinson, a recruiter with the recruiting and retention command in Madison. "We have a pretty good partnership with the Packers and are grateful they allow us to set up in the tailgate zone."

Many members of the National Guard see their service as almost a family heritage, much like Packer fans, said Sen. Master Sgt. Connie Bacik, recruiter with the WING and one of the organizers of the event.

Civilians do not always separate the Army Guard from the Air Guard said Sergeant Bacik. "That is why this display is so important," she added.

"Having Army and Air work together is critically important to our success," said Air Force Brig Gen. John McCoy, Wisconsin National Guard deputy adjutant general.