Four members of the Wisconsin National Guard — two Soldiers, two Airmen — served as an honor guard for the 36th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin Jan. 18.
This public event is but one recent example of the type of community relations the Wisconsin National Guard engages in with communities across the state. But there is a process to requesting National Guard support for community events, according to Kelly Bradley, Wisconsin National Guard community relations officer.
“We like to get them as early as possible so we have a chance to process the paperwork and find the personnel and work through the details with the requestor,” Bradley explained. “Sometimes we can turn it around quickly, but it’s really ideal to get it in early.”
Event organizers are already contacting Bradley to coordinate support for events in July and September, she said. Events can be as small as requesting a single speaker or as large as supporting the governor’s inauguration ceremony.
Not all community relations requests are equal — the time of year, location and equipment requested each factor into whether a request can be approved or not.
“There’s a lot of things we have to piece together to get those requests approved,” Bradley said, noting that the proximity of certain vehicles to the event or the event occurring on a federal holiday can complicate requests. The community event should have a logical connection to the military or government, static displays must be free and open to the public, and military speakers cannot attend events that exclude particular groups of people. Tightened federal budgets in recent years have likewise impacted flight and flyover requests.
“There’s a lot we have to look through to see if we can support.”
In spite of the fact that the Wisconsin National Guard has three air bases in the state as well as armories in most counties, requests for National Guard support of community events all cross Bradley’s desk. A notable exception is requests for flyovers, which must first be submitted through the U.S. Air Force Aerial Events Support home page. Bradley still plays a coordinating role in flyover requests.
“It’s almost a one-stop shop,” she said, adding that she is a subject matter expert on what Department of Defense regulations and National Guard Bureau regulations will allow and not allow. She is also just a few offices removed from the Wisconsin National Guard legal staff, which determines if requests meet regulatory requirements. She also helps ensure requests are properly resourced.
“I help everything from the Army band and color guard to speakers, aircraft, static displays, vehicles in parades and things like that,” she said. “Sometimes people don’t know how the military is set up — as a civilian, I can help them and explain to them how this works.”
Downloadable forms to request National Guard support for community events are available at the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs website.