Gov. Tony Evers, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, and senior Wisconsin Army National Guard leaders joined family and friends at a formal sendoff ceremony May 29 for approximately 150 soldiers of the 107th Maintenance Company, which will deploy to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve as well as a planned multinational joint exercise, Defender-Europe 2021.
This marks the first overseas deployment for the 107th — located in Sparta, with detachments in Viroqua and Camp Ripley, Minnesota — since Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91.
The company was mobilized in 2003 for a maintenance mission at Fort McCoy supporting units deploying for the global war on terror. In the past year, much of the unit has served in support of the state’s COVID-19 response effort, as well as on state active duty supporting local authorities during civil unrest.
Evers was on hand to personally thank the deploying soldiers at Sparta Memorial Field.
“You were on the front line — some of you served the Guard by doing specimen collection, vaccine distribution and assisting local government,” Evers said. “Others worked at polling sites to ensure that Wisconsin citizens could safely exercise their First Amendment rights. All of your efforts and professionalism were critical to the success of the Wisconsin National Guard and the entire state of Wisconsin during these unprecedented times.
“But now it’s time for a new mission, to serve our nation overseas on a mission to Europe that will strengthen our military partnerships as well as ensuring that we maintain all the liberties and freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” Evers continued. “The military and civilian skills that you bring are unmatched, and the Army is getting an exceptional group of citizen soldiers because you embody the values and traits that are inherent through Wisconsin upbringing — that is, things like selflessness, hard work and dedication. That’s why the Army looks to us when it needs to call on the National Guard when it needs to complete a difficult mission, because they know they are getting the best of the best when they call on the Wisconsin National Guard.”
Capt. Shawn Smith, commander of the deploying unit, said he was honored to stand before the finest logisticians the Wisconsin Army National Guard had to offer.
“I’m so proud to lead such a great group of soldiers who have worked so hard to get us here and are putting home life responsibilities on hold to serve their country and build partnerships with our NATO allies,” Smith said. “Witnessing all the great effort from our folks to bring the 107th to fully mission capable status was a truly rewarding sight to see. All of you are the ones who got us here, and you are the subject matter experts that I know will ensure mission success while we are deployed.”
Knapp noted that in addition to state and federal missions, the National Guard also has a partnership mission.
“Our national defense strategy outlines the importance of partnerships and how they enhance the security of the United States,” Knapp said. “They’re vital to a peaceful and open world for all free nations.”
Knapp recognized Mary Carlisle, the 107th family readiness group leader, who took on that role in the mid-1990s when her sons were in the unit and has stayed on since they left the National Guard. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, also lauded Carlisle.
“I guarantee the 107th has one of the best family readiness groups in the nation, bar none,” Mathews said. “I met Mary Carlisle in 1999 when I was the state family readiness program coordinator, and she was the first recipient of the state family readiness program’s Volunteer of the Year award. She is an awesome lady, she knows her business, and thank you, Mary, for your support.”
Knapp referred to National Guard deployments as a team sport.
“Community sendoffs like this are unique to the National Guard,” Knapp observed. “Citizen soldiers — we’re your neighbors, your friends, and we couldn’t conduct our state or federal mission without the exceptional support of our communities.
“When a soldier deploys, so does the family, and the employer and the friend,” he continued. “That family support is the bedrock on which the service member’s service rests.”
Mathews encouraged the families of deploying troops to ask for help if they need it.
“I think you all have the toughest job,” she said. “You don’t know what lies ahead in the next year. You are left behind to take care of things.”
She praised the 107th for their efforts over the past year.
“It’s been a busy, crazy couple of years,” she acknowledged. “I witnessed many of you out there on the line in Kenosha, at many of the collection sites, being very professional, working hard and being very dedicated to protect the citizens of Wisconsin.
“And I also saw you during the evaluation a few months ago,” Mathews continued. “Very professional, very dedicated, you have the expertise and I really appreciate everything that you continue to do and I know that you will do well on deployment.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Patrouille, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, encouraged the enlisted soldiers to seek out “authentic leadership opportunities” during their deployment.
“You’ve been training for this moment your entire military career,” Patrouille said. “Take full advantage of every opportunity provided to you to expand your knowledge base. When you return, you’re going to be some of the best subject matter experts we have in the field.”
He likewise encouraged the company’s senior leaders to provide authentic leadership opportunities to their subordinates.
“Challenge them along the way,” Patrouille said. “Leadership is all about developing others, and this deployment will allow you many opportunities to do just that — take full advantage.”
This will be the first deployment for up to 75 percent of the unit, including Spc. Maya Wallis of Viroqua, whose job on this deployment will be utilities equipment repair.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about my job,” Wallis said. “I really want to be able to fix (air conditioning) well.”
Spc. Jeffrey Barrett of Madison, a small arms repairer with the 107th, was very excited about the deployment.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to practice my job and learn what it’s like to be overseas,” he said.
Spc. Chukwueduka Ozodi of South Milwaukee, a culinary arts specialist for the 107th, expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m very excited to do my job,” Ozodi said. “I want to see other places.”
The 107th Maintenance Company will spend several weeks at Fort Hood, Texas, completing mobilization training before deploying to Eastern Europe, where they will serve in Poland, Lithuania and Romania, as well as other NATO locations.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard still has nearly 600 troops mobilized for the state’s COVID-19 response effort. Additionally, dozens of Wisconsin Air National Guard members continue worldwide mobilizations, and approximately 60 soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 135th Medical Company mobilized in late March for a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait. The 176th Cyber Protection Team also remains mobilized at Fort Meade, Maryland, in support of U.S. Cyber Command and Cyber National Mission Force requirements.