When the Soldiers of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 951st Engineer Company participated in a patching ceremony Sept. 28 at both the Tomahawk and Rhinelander Army National Guard armories to receive the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's distinctive Red Arrow unit patch, it marked the beginning of a transformation in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
The unit, formerly part of the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's 724th Engineer Battalion, received the Red Arrow patch as a part of the ongoing Army-directed reorganization of units in the Wisconsin National Guard.
Other units in the Wisconsin Army National Guard affected by the reorganization are beginning their transitions as well, but one of the most noticeable changes will manifest in the formation of the 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, which will now fall under the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The 173rd will replace the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and what was once the 951st Engineer Company will now be known as Company A of the 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion.
Col. Mike Rand, commander of the 32nd, and Command Sgt. Major Rafael Conde, the brigade's command sergeant major, presented the Red Arrow patches to the Soldiers of the 951st as a part of the Sept. 28 ceremony. Lt. Col. John Reiter, commander of the 32 Brigade Special Troops Battalion and soon-to-be 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, and Command Sgt. Major John Dietzler joined Rand and Conde in welcoming the Soldiers to the 32nd Brigade.
1st Lt. Steve Layden handles the logistics of the transition for the Soldiers as the human resources officer for the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
"Unit transitions are difficult," Layden said. "A lot of positions are being affected. We have a lot to coordinate, but we need to make sure that the Soldiers have a home when the transition is complete."
"The 724th has a long, rich history," Layden continued. "These Soldiers are proud of it - they've deployed with the 724th. This is more significant than a simple switch of a patch. We need to be sensitive. The 32nd also has a long history. This ceremony welcomes the Soldiers of the 951st. It both acknowledges their accomplishments, honoring the 724th and their history, and embraces the change," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Raith, a platoon sergeant with the 951st out of Rhinelander, talked about the transition.
"It'll be a change, but not a bad one," he said. "Some of the newer Soldiers might not notice as much, but we will be working less with vehicles and more on foot. We will work more closely with the infantry and move into a more traditional combat engineer role."
"This ceremony is important because we get to see the faces of the new command sergeant major and the commander," Raith said about the patching ceremony. "It cements the fact that the transition is real. It started in the rumor mill, and especially over the last six months it's really evolved and plans have been implemented. This ceremony cements that this is really happening."
Rand talked about the transition and the Soldiers of the Rhinelander and Tomahawk area.
"This ceremony today reflects this force restructuring, while recognizing the heritage of this unit in the community. I am looking forward to working with these fine Soldiers and continuing the proud history of this company," Rand said.
"I've enjoyed my time with the 724th," Raith said, "but I'm looking forward to working with the 32nd Brigade."
Other units around the state affected by the reorganization will continue their transitions over the course of the next year.