More than 120 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers from the 32nd Military Police Company returned to the U.S. March 30 after a deployment to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Milwaukee-based unit returned to Fort Bliss, Texas, where it will de-mobilize before returning to Wisconsin in the coming weeks.
The unit returned after completing a detentions operations mission under Joint Task Force Guantanamo, where it provided care and custody for detainees. Waiting to greet them at the base of the plane when they landed in Texas were senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders including Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the deputy adjutant general for Army, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the senior enlisted advisor for the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
“The mission is never done until you get back home,” Conde told the unit.
Others echoed his sentiments and urged the Soldiers to take advantage of their time at Fort Bliss to learn more about the benefits they have earned and to ensure they get the care they need.
“When you left the state, we told you that you had an important mission,” Anderson said. “But your mission is not complete. The expectations as a Wisconsin Army National Guardsman are extremely high, and what you have accomplished down at (Guantanamo) has continued to set that bar at a very high standard. But that bar does not lower until you get back home and you get back into the arms of your loved ones.”
Dunbar and others praised the unit for its service, accomplishments and the professionalism with which it served in Cuba.
“I have so much respect for what you do, and the connection to the American public is the Guard and the Reserve,” Dunbar said. “It is incredible that so many of you have jobs in the civilian world, then put this uniform on and continue to serve our country as you just have. It is something unique. It is something remarkable.”
“You should be proud of yourselves,” he added. “I’m proud of you. What you’ve accomplished is not an easy thing. Most folks couldn’t qualify to wear the uniform, and you’ve taken the next step and deployed for your country.”
The 32nd Military Police Company left Wisconsin in May 2016 enroute to Cuba. The unit previously deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Hungary in 2002, Iraq in 2003-04 and 2009, and to Kosovo in 2011-12.
The Wisconsin National Guard continues to play a critical role as the primary combat reserve of the U.S. Army and Air Force in military operations around the globe. Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers with Detachment 1, Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division Multi-Component Unit returned from a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait in late 2016.
In February, approximately 65 Soldiers from the Madison, Wisconsin-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Soldiers mobilized for a deployment to the Middle East, and another 35 Soldiers from the West Bend, Wisconsin-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation mobilized for a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. Approximately 85 additional Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation are set to deploy to the Middle East later this spring.
The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously remains ready to execute its other primary mission as the first military responder in the homeland.
Planning is underway for a homecoming ceremony for the returning Soldiers, and the Wisconsin National Guard will announce those details as the unit’s return to Wisconsin draws near.