Leaders from state government and a delegation from Wisconsin’s federal representatives in Washington D.C. got a first-hand look at the training, capabilities and professionalism of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard during recent visits to National Guard facilities.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch joined senior National Guard leaders during an Aug. 6 visit to Guard facilities at Volk Field, Wisconsin, and to Hardwood Range in Juneau County, where military aircraft engage simulated adversary threats and practice dropping their ordnance on targets. A separate delegation representing the offices of Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Mark Pocan, Ron Kind, Jim Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman and Sean Duffy, visited Hardwood Range and Wisconsin National Guard facilities at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 10.
The lieutenant governor toured Volk Field’s Regional All-Climate Training Center as well as other Guard facilities on the base after a Wisconsin Homeland Security Council news conference at the 115th Fighter Wing’s headquarters at Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin, that unveiled the state’s updated emergency response plan. Kleefisch also visited Hardwood Range to see F-16s from the 115th Fighter Wing in action.
A few days later, the delegation that visited Aug. 10 watched the F-16s strafing targets at Hardwood before travelling via UH-60 Black Hawks from the Army Guard’s Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, to Fort McCoy to tour the Wisconsin Military Academy and the 426th Regional Training Institute
At the 426th, the delegates got hands-on experience using an indoor electronic shooting range and watched an artillery call-for-fire demonstration in an electronic simulator. They also watched a team of Soldiers train on another simulator to egress a vehicle after a Humvee rollover.
Both visits provided an excellent opportunity for the Wisconsin National Guard to showcase its vast capabilities as a force, as well as the professionalism of the Soldiers and Airmen that wear the uniform.
Speaking to the delegation, Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the deputy adjutant general for Army, noted the wide array of missions the Wisconsin National Guard has completed in recent years to include responses to flooding, wildfire suppression, storm damage cleanup efforts and even specialized force packages employed to combat the Avian Flu and the Ebola virus.
The equipment capabilities alone — vehicles capable of fording high-water, communications assets, helicopters — are all vitally important resources for the state to have available, he said.
“All of those capabilities reside here in the state with the men and women that are trained on that equipment, so it’s a pretty phenomenal thing to see when it gets put into action,” Anderson said.
Coupled with the thousands of Wisconsin Army and Air National Guardsmen who have deployed overseas to combat zones in the years since 9/11, the Guard’s vast capabilities and value to both the state and nation have been on display.
Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, the top officer in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, highlighted the strategic importance of Milwaukee’s 128th Air Refueling Wing in projecting American air power abroad, as well as the 115th Fighter Wing, but he described the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, as a “national treasure.”
There are only four such CRTCs operated by the National Guard in the United States, and Volk Field, Ebben said, is arguably the most valuable of the four largely because it is wholly owned and operated by the National Guard. The other three CRTCs are co-located with civilian airfields, meaning the military must integrate with civilian air traffic and operate in more densely populated areas.
Volk and the Hardwood Range complex also specializes in simulating surface-to-air threats for pilots training over its airspace.
“Those electronic threat presentations — there aren’t very many places in the country that have that capability,” Ebben said. “This isn’t the only place, but they are few and far between so this is a pretty critical asset.”
“The combination of fighters, tankers, great airspace, the range, and all the pieces that tie the whole thing together, we are just very fortunate here,” he said.
The delegation that visited Aug. 10 received briefings at Fort McCoy on a variety of other topics as well including the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy and the officer and warrant officer candidate schools at the 426th RTI, as well as its artillery school and master resilience training programs.