Approximately 75 current and former members of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 132nd Army Band gathered in Waunakee, Wisconsin Aug. 13 for a concert to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Although the band traces its lineage to the 32nd Division, which celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year, it became the 132nd Army Band in 1967 when the division reorganized into the 32nd Infantry Brigade.
“Bands are very much an integral part of the U.S. military across all four services,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army. “They are important elements that help provide morale and esprit de corps across the organization.”
William Richardson, retired Wisconsin National Guard command chief warrant officer and commander of the 132nd from 1977 to 2002, highlighted the ability of music to affect people emotionally, spiritually, and to bring them joy. Richardson recounted the words of then-Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jerome Berard as they awaited Soldiers deplaning from Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
“‘Twenty years from now, these people will not remember where they landed or what happened,’” Richardson remembered Berard saying. “‘The one thing they’ll remember is the band was there and they played for us.’”
That sentiment hit Richardson when he saw the eyes of the Soldiers begin to tear up as the band performed “Army Goes Rolling Along” and “On Wisconsin.”
“They realized, ‘I’m home,’” Richardson said, teary-eyed himself remembering the moment. “‘I did my job and I’m home.’”
From the National Anthem and through a selection of jazz, pop music, and military marches, it was evident that music united each person in attendance at the Aug. 13 concert. Veterans in the audience, including two former members of the 32nd Division Band, stood proudly as their respective branch service song played during the “Armed Forces Medley.”
Bands have been integral in Army operations throughout military history, from drums, fifes and trumpets directing troop movements to bugles signaling times throughout the day to whole ensembles providing troop morale, even on the front lines. Today, the 132nd is a staple of military ceremonies such as troop homecomings and sendoffs as well as community events. Just as it has throughout its history, the 132nd continues to be there to help prepare Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers deploying or returning from overseas as the Army’s primary combat reserve.
“We’re not the fighters,” Richardson said. “But we should be the people that will help people who are going to be fighting to go in there knowing that everybody is behind me.”
In addition to the complete 40-plus member band, the 132nd has about six sub-ensembles, including rock, country, brass, and jazz lineups, allowing them to tailor their offerings to each event.