MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker and senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined family and friends in a sendoff ceremony Monday (May 17) for more than 120 members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company, which will deploy to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo to support detainee operations as part of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
The ceremony occurred as Armed Forces Week was beginning in Milwaukee, underscoring the Wisconsin National Guard’s dual role as the nation’s primary combat reserve and the state’s first military responder.
“We’re about to become participants in history,” said Capt. Brian Schwalbach, company commander, noting the recent change in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. “Our unit is no stranger to high-profile missions. We have always been relevant and ready — this mission will not be any different. The Soldiers here are tried, tested and ready for this deployment.”
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, also invoked history by speaking of “those damned black hats” from the Civil War, and the Red Arrow Division from World War I and World War II.
“They wrote great chapters of our history,” Dunbar said. “And whether you know it or not, men and women of the 32nd, you are writing a new chapter in the history of the Wisconsin National Guard — your chapter. And it’s just as important to the defense of this country as our previous legacy.”
Walker presented Schwalbach with a state flag, noting it was designed in 1863 at the request of Wisconsin volunteer infantry Soldiers during the Civil War who wanted to carry state colors into battle.
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, acknowledged the professionalism required for the 32nd Military Police Company’s upcoming mission.
“You will continue to hone your skills for this quite difficult mission,” Anderson said. “I’ll tell you that your challenges will be just as difficult [as those in a combat theater]. It will be because of your individual professionalism, your capabilities, coming together as a team, knowing what the mission is, and taking care of each other that you’re ultimately going to be as successful as I’m extremely confident you will be.”
1st Lt. David Kalisky, the unit executive officer, expects to be assigned to Camp Echo — a facility where detainees with behavioral or psychiatric health issues meet with lawyers and doctors.
“For the past eight months we’ve been focusing on detainee operations at home station,” he said. “I’m learning a lot in this position.”
“I will tell you these Soldiers are well trained, well equipped and well led,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Sullivan, senior enlisted advisor for the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade — the Milwaukee-based brigade to which the 32nd Military Police Company belongs. “These Soldiers are going to go forward, they’re going to perform their mission professionally, they’re going to come home with dignity and return back to you.”
Dunbar said that when a National Guard unit deploys, it takes part of the community with it.
“The National Guard is part of Wisconsin, and when this unit goes forward, you have the family and loved ones of these Soldiers going into this mission,” Dunbar said. “When the National Guard deploys to Guantanamo Bay, it takes Milwaukee and Green Bay and Oak Creek and Delavan and many other towns — this unit is going to do great because we’re sending Wisconsin.”
“Today we thank each of you for being willing to serve your nation and your state through your service in the Wisconsin National Guard. I thank each of you, I thank your families and friends, but I also thank your employers for giving you the support and ability to come back to the same position once your deployment is over.”
Schwalbach said his company could not do what it does without the support of family and friends.
“You are the glue that holds us together,” he said. “Your dedication and sacrifice is second to none.”
The 32nd Military Police Company will conduct about six weeks of training at Fort Bliss, Texas before deploying for several months to Guantanamo Bay.