MADISON, Wis. - Soldiers are often recognized for the military awards they receive, time in service or if they were injured during combat, but on Saturday Jan 18, five Wisconsin Army National Guard members were honored for their service in civilian life.
Lt. Col. Michael Murphy, Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Kuechenmeister, Sgt. Cassandra Kautzmann, Sgt. Michael Sentkowski and Sgt. Bradley Bartha were recognized at the UW-Wisconsin Men's Badger basketball game at the Kohl Center. Through the Wisconsin National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, the five were nominated based on their civilian occupations and volunteer activities.
"It's really nice that they do this for us - it makes you feel good," Sentkowski said. "I can tell a lot of work goes into this." Before the game started, Sentkowski even received a silent hug from a random Badger fan walking by.
All were brought to center court before the start of the game and each received a game ball as honorary captains. The announcer spoke a little about each Soldier and the crowd responded with loud cheers and applause.
"It's great that [our commanders] care about what we do outside of the military," Kautzmann said. "It's nice someone pays attention."
Kautzmann is a member of Company D, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, where she was the 2013 Battalion Soldier of the Year. In her civilian life Kautzmann volunteers with Habitat for Humanity in Southeast Wisconsin and studies political science and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She has been selected for a study-abroad trip to Mexico where she will do research on indigenous populations.
Currently working as a member of the Wisconsin National Guard Mobilization Training and Assistance Element and as a howitzer gunner with Battery B, 120th Field Artillery Battalion out of Stevens Point, Wis., Sentkowski is an active community member - planning parades and bowling tournaments with the American Legion, coaching his T-ball team, and is an active member of his local Lions Club.
Bartha was selected to represent the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Competition in 2013. In his civilian life he is active in many volunteer activities working with numerous military veteran groups, coordinates veteran participation in the Fourth of July Parade for the towns of Wausau and Merrill, runs Bingo at a nursing home for the residents and families of veterans, and is an active member of the Men of Honor Society in Marathon County.
Kuechenmeister currently serves with the Recruiting and Retention Battalion in Madison, Wis., as the battalion supply sergeant. Kuechenmeister has been a volunteer fireman and first responder for 16 years with the Chippewa Fire District and the Luck Fire Department. He also coaches for the Frederic varsity baseball team and middle school football team with his time away from the National Guard.
In his role as a Soldier, Murphy is the commander of the 2nd Modular Battalion in the 426th Regimental Training Institute at the Wisconsin Military Academy. In his civilian occupation he is the director of the Wisconsin Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis. The Wisconsin Challenge Academy mentors at-risk youth throughout Wisconsin and provides them a second chance at success after high school.
The Soldiers were allowed to bring a guest and given seats to watch the game.
"It is a great honor to be here to represent the military," Murphy said.