MADISON, Wis. — One of the smallest yet most active units in the Wisconsin Army National Guard received a prestigious award for their service in 2017.
The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Detachment 5, 641st Aviation received the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center’s (JOSAC), Unit of the Year award, in the category of large aircraft for fiscal year 2017.
The Unit of the Year award is based on a level of service, reliability and customer care said chief warrant officer four Joe Zewiske, senior instructor pilot with the 641st.
Chief Warrant Officer Five Arthur Hebblewhite, the detachment commander said the unit fulfills a role similar to that of a charter service for Department of Defense personnel – moving critical personnel throughout their area of operations.
“It’s a nice recognition of all the hard work people do here,” Hebblewhite said. “It’s a commitment. When you’re here, you do it all.”
The state's military leadership was proud of the unit's achievement.
"Congratulations to the Soldiers of Detachment 5 on this tremendous accomplishment," Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin's deputy adjutant general for Army said. "This well-deserved recognition is thanks to the dedication and professionalism of the Soldiers in the unit, and epitomizes the dedication and professionalism found across the Wisconsin National Guard."
The 641st led the effort as key contributors to the more than 441 missions flown by all services within the JOSAC command.
While the unit remains extremely active flying regular missions stateside, the 641st currently has three Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.
“Fitting that we currently have three members downrange in Afghanistan performing the same high level of support to the combatant commanders,” Lt. Col. Matthew Strub, Wisconsin’s state aviation and safety officer said. “I could not be more proud of our C-26 team.”
While most Guard units train regularly for missions, the 641st receives missions on a regular basis, which means they need to be ready to go at all times to fulfill missions that support the Guard’s role as the nation’s first military responder, but also in combat theaters ferrying critical personnel and supplies from location to location.
“We have a live mission,” Hebblewhite said. “Every day is a mission. We’re doing it for real all the time here. That’s what we do.”
Hebblewhite and Zewiske insisted that the Soldiers of the 641st need to have a high level of flexibility and commitment in order to meet the high demands of their job.
“It isn’t a nine-to-five job,” Zewiske stated. “Your schedule is so fluid, and it changes daily. It’s very much a team effort.”
Hebblewhite added, “The success of the team rests on the individual. If you get enough of those individuals in your unit, you are going to stand out. We try to hire people that can do the job and do it well, and they have all done that.”
The three 641st Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan join hundreds of other Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard deployed around the globe. In November, approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing returned to Madison from a deployment to Korea. Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 248th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to the Middle East in September, and approximately 35 Soldiers from West Bend’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November. Elements of the Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation began returning to the United States in recent weeks after deploying to Kuwait and Iraq last spring. Approximately 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are in the midst of deployments worldwide, and other Airmen from the 128th deployed earlier in the fall as well.
Last fall, the Wisconsin National Guard also deployed Soldiers and Airmen to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist with hurricane recovery efforts, and Soldiers responded to flooding over the summer in Monroe County and Burlington, Wisconsin.