Much like the ceremonial bowl of grog, proud and long-standing traditions blended together Feb. 22 for the Wisconsin Army National Guard's inaugural All Saints Celebration.
The idea to make a single, formal dining and recognition event for all branches of the Army came from Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, deputy adjutant general for Army. The goal, he said, was simple: continue to build camaraderie and esprit de corps within and among the various branches of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
"Because I'm an artillery officer, I have been exposed to the celebration of our patron saint - Saint Barbara - for many years," Anderson said. "The presentation of the Military Order of Saint Barbara and the Molly Pitcher for spouses is a means to publicly recognize field artillerymen for an extra level of excellence in learning their craft. A few other branches within the Army are equally as active in this type of recognition, but not all."
The All Saints Celebration, therefore, was an opportunity to expose Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers to the rich history and traditions of the various Army branches, while also recognizing select Soldiers in a family setting.
The inaugural event appeared to be a success.
"I thought it was a fantastic event," said Lt. Col. Brian Wolhaupter, a strategic planner for the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "One of the best things about the event is it highlights that there's really such strong traditions across the force. There is a unity, a brotherhood, a strength to the Wisconsin Army National Guard no matter what branch you're in, no matter what field you're in. It goes beyond work - it's a part of who we are all the time."
Warrant Officer 1 Dennis Trest has attended numerous Saint Barbara events as a member of the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery.
"It's heartening to see so many people taking an interest and pride in their service," Trest said. "We like that we're sharing that kind of tradition with the other branches and rekindling that esprit de corps that we share in the field artillery with some of the other branches. As a former [military policeman], I didn't even know we had a [patron] saint until rather recently."
"It was super getting to know all the other branches of service," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Yenchesky, noting that Saint Barbara celebrations tend to be more intimate settings as the participants know each other. "This was nice."
State Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields declared the inaugural celebration an outstanding event.
"It helped take down some of the walls that have grown [between brigades] over the years," Shields said. "I think, as time goes on, there will be more representation from the other branches."
While field artillery boasted the largest participation in the inaugural event, Shields noted that the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team had already conducted events at the brigade and battalion level.
"With some predictability in the future, we could maximize the opportunity to use this venue to present awards," he said.
Several Soldiers and some civilians received awards for distinction within various Army branches at the event:
Samuel Sharpe Award (Ordinance Corps) - Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Krueck;
St. Martin Award (Quartermaster Corps) - Sgt. 1st Class Colin Hackney and Staff Sgt. April R. Hicks;
St. Christopher Award (Transportation Corps) - Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Watson II;
Order of the de Fleury Award (Engineer Corps) - Brig. Gen. Mark Michie and retired Col. James Lewis;
Order of the Dragon Award (Chemical Corps) - 1st Sgt. Jason Wiesner;
Thomas Knowlton Award (Military Intelligence Corps) - Staff Sgt. William Baebler;
St. Michael Award (Aviation Corps) - retired 1st Sgt. Ted Corsi;
St. Maurice Award (Infantry Corps) - Col. George Rand, Maj. Daniel Walsh, Maj. Raymond Ripberg, Maj. Aaron Freund, Capt. Aaron Arntson, Capt. Nickolas Litchfield, Command Sgt. Maj. John Schiermeister;
Shield of Sparta Award (heroine of Infantry, spouse award) - Mrs. Susan Oakley;
Order of Mercury Award (Signal Corps) - Bronze Order: retired Master Sgt. David Owen, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Donovan; Silver Order: Lt. Col. Jeffery Alston;
Nathan Towson Medallion (Finance Corps) - Col. Daniel Sailer, Lt. Col. Russell Miller;
St. Barbara Award (Field Artillery Corps) 1st Battalion, 426th Regional Training Institute: Sgt. 1st Class Craig Cook, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Gehrett, Sgt. 1st Class David Mathes, Sgt. 1st Class George McConville;
1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery: Maj. Jeremy O'Leary, Capt. Matthew Mangerson, 1st Lt. John King, 1st Sgt. Adam Wallander, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Ihrcke, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Thiele, Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Hamilton, Sgt. 1st Class Steven Schultz, Staff Sgt. Charles Robinson, Staff Sgt. Jesse Hansen;
1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery: Capt. Jesse Losinsk, Master Sgt. Aaron Johnson, Sgt. 1st Class Derek West, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Dye, Staff Sgt. James Brow, Sgt. Angel Powell;
Headquarters, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team: Sgt. 1st Class Franklin Barlow, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Van Auken;
Honorable Order of Molly Pitcher (for women who voluntarily contribute to field artillery) - Mrs. Amanda Slagle, Mrs. Robin Lemke, Staff Sgt. Nicole Mayberry;
Ancient Order of St. Barbara Award (Field Artillery Corps) - retired Brig. Gen. Dominic Cariello;
Brig. Gen. Bilo Award (Field Artillery Corps, National Guard) - Capt. Matthew Mangerson;
St. George Award (Armor Corps) - Capt. Jason Reiman.
Sgt. Sean Huolihan contributed to this report.