MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker and senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined families and friends in welcoming home members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation, who returned from a nine-month deployment serving in four countries in the Middle East
“We left with a very ill-defined mission, not knowing exactly where we were going to go,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bush, who commanded the nearly 85 Soldiers who deployed to form the headquarters for Task Force Wraith, which performed missions in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. Task Force Wraith supported Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
“We’ve actively participated in the fall of ISIS in Iraq and supported the stabilization of the Middle East,” Bush told family members and friends at the welcome-home ceremony. “We could not have done it without the outstanding effort of these people next to me — your Soldiers. Members of the 147th Aviation Battalion, you did an outstanding job.”
Bush thanked the family members and friends for supporting their Soldiers during deployment. Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Kaluzny, the senior enlisted advisor for the 147th’s parent organization, the 64th Troop Command, acknowledged the sacrifice made by families, friends and employers.
“You can’t overstate it,” Kaluzny said. “Thank you very much.”
Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Krueck thanked the returning Soldiers for what they did during their deployment before turning to the family members in attendance.
“Thank you for letting them do what they do,” he said.
Spc. Tyler Oneste served as a Black Hawk maintainer during the deployment — his first in just under three years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
“There’s been times where we were very busy — we were working 16-18 hour days,” Oneste said. “And then there were days where we can’t fly because of the weather. It was up and down — it was never a steady stream.”
Task Force Wraith conducted medevac operations, troop transport — to include distinguished visitor transport — and general aviation support such as cargo transport. The entire task force — for which the Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers formed the headquarters element — also included Soldiers from Michigan, Texas and Kansas, and later added tactical control of units from Puerto Rico, Arkansas, Montana and an active-duty Apache helicopter unit.
Capt. Angela Becker-Bradley, who has served 18 years in the Army Reserve and the Wisconsin Army National Guard, also returned from her first overseas deployment. She served as a medical logistics officer, and later took on non-medical logistics duties as well.
“It went well,” she said. “I got a lot of career experience, overcame a lot of challenges working in new roles I hadn’t done before.”
Maj. Gen. Mark Anderson, the deputy adjutant general for Army, boasted about the 147th’s performance overseas.
“Each and every time we had feedback from their higher headquarters in theater, and other elements that were working alongside them, the comments were always about the phenomenal Soldiers that we had here in Wisconsin,” Anderson said, before welcoming the Soldiers back to “the land of beer, brats and cheese.
“You have done a phenomenal job,” he continued. “Reflect on the accomplishments you have achieved as a unit. You truly have set the standard, once again, for Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers. Congratulations, and thank you.”
Anderson told family members that their sacrifice had not gone unnoticed. Maj.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, agreed. He held up one family member’s hand-written sign, which read, “278 days all spent missin’ you.”
“I think this says it all — I think this speaks for all the families here,” Dunbar said. “278 days can be gut-wrenching, because you do all the things you did before your loved one left, you do all the things he or she did when they were home, and you spend 24 hours a day worrying about them.
“Well, they’re all home now, so worry no more,” Dunbar continued. “They did an awesome job. We appreciate your support. We couldn’t do what we do, and they couldn’t do what they do, without the love and support from families.”
Dunbar agreed that the Soldiers of the 147th met and surpassed a considerable challenge.
“You’ve had a very difficult start because we gave you a very short period of time to get ready and you had to overcome that,” the adjutant general said. “You went overseas and did an exceptional job supporting the operations of the United States Army. One of the greatest things in life is to have a sense of purpose, a sense of duty. There’s no finer purpose, no greater honor, than being a Soldier for the United States Army and you have met every piece of that standard — you are 100 percent American Soldier.”
Gov. Scott Walker praised the returning Soldiers beyond that.
“Soldiers, I’ve said it before, but you are the best of the best, and you’ve shown it again,” Walker said. “Welome home — job well done.”
Eleven babies were born to unit members during the deployment — one to Ashley Bergeman, wife of Sgt. Nicholas Bergeman.
“Our son Brook turned six months yesterday,” she said. “[Nicholas] met him for the first time today.”
The couple married two days before the unit’s last deployment in 2010, and also have a two-and-a-half year old. Ashley said being involved with the unit as part of its Family Readiness Group helped.
“I don’t want to say deployments are easier, but when you’re involved with the unit … that’s when you meet your military family,” she explained. “It helps to have friends going through the same thing.”
Oneste said he learned a lot during this deployment.
“Ultimately I learned a lot about the helicopters that I work on, but I know that I still have a lot more to learn, and I’m looking forward to doing that,” he said.
“It was a great deployment. I have no complaints whatsoever.”