MADISON, Wis. — Current and former Wisconsin National Guard members were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the organization during an honors induction ceremony Sept. 9 at Joint Force Headquarters.
This was the first joint ceremony to honor both Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor and Wisconsin Air National Guard Hall of Fame inductees. Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers of the Year and Wisconsin Air National Guard Outstanding Airmen of the Year were also recognized.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said the ceremony acknowledged the heritage and legacy of the Wisconsin National Guard and spotlighted the tremendous men and women of the organization who wear the uniform.
“I’m always struck by the continuum of the National Guard,” Dunbar observed. “At one end of our continuum is this wonderfully simple concept, that if something goes wrong in your community, or in our state, or in our country tonight, or anywhere in the world the United States has to respond, the National Guard today in Wisconsin and across our country stands ready to drop the plow and pick up the musket. It’s a concept that began in 1636 and was on display a couple days ago when members of the Army and Air National Guard responded to flooding conditions in the state of Wisconsin to sandbag and keep the interstates open.
“On the other end of the continuum is this incredible complexity,” he continued. “In the National Guard you’ve got this wonderful organization that serves as both primary combat reserve of the United States Army and United States Air Force and the first military responder in the homeland, and these wonderful men and women who wear the uniform and live their lives balancing work life, family life and serving in the military.
“And where you hear this simple and complex organization that is the National Guard, you will also hear, ‘Always ready — always there.’”
This year’s inductees represent some of the best of these civil servants, he said.
The late Col. Mathew J. Dew III of Madison, Wis. — represented by his wife, Jane, and son, Sgt. Michael Dew — was inducted into the Hall of Honor. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1971, Col. Dew later joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a staff judge advocate and retired in 2007.
As the state’s Staff Judge Advocate, Dew provided sound, well-researched and insightful skills at critical junctures following 9/11. His efforts culminated with a modernized Wisconsin Code of Military Justice, enacted into law in 2007.
“Col. Dew was always thinking of our Soldiers, our Airmen and our families,” said Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army.
Retired Col. Michael McKenna agreed.
“Mat Dew was a great guy, great Soldier, and a great officer, and I miss him very much,” McKenna said.
Also inducted into the Hall of Honor was retired Brig. Gen. James W. Holmes of Madison, Wis., who began his career in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1957 and retired as its assistant adjutant general for Readiness and Training. He was recognized for his high level of field artillery technical expertise, as well as his leadership and ability to adapt in an evolving organization.
“I hope that all of the awardees are as proud as I am today of the honors being given to us,” Holmes said. “I am truly more than honored, and amazed that I was selected.”
The Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor program recognizes Soldiers who have distinguished themselves through exceptional achievement and devotion to duty.
Retired Lt. Col. Tomas J. Thomas was inducted into the Wisconsin Air National Guard Hall of Fame. Commissioned in 1966 as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and serving as a pilot and instructor, Thomas joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1971, serving in both the 128th Air Refueling Wing and the 115th Fighter Wing. Outside of the Guard, he worked with airport managers to improve instrument landing systems and global positioning capabilities at airfields, and in 2007 was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame.
“He knew everything about aviation in the state of Wisconsin,” said Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Air. “He would talk about the Air National Guard and how it impacted or involved the entire aviation community within the state of Wisconsin, and that paid huge dividends for the Wisconsin Air National Guard.”
Retired Chief Master Sgt. James J. Schmeisser was also inducted in the Hall of Fame. During a 40-year career that spanned active duty and the Wisconsin Air National Guard, Schmeisser leveraged his exceptional civil engineer skills to develop an award-winning civil engineer squadron with the 115th Fighter Wing as well as improve flight facilities at Balad Air Base, Iraq.
“He mentored so many over the decades, and then to culminate serving as the command chief of the 113th Fighter Wing,” Ebben said of Schmeisser. “Packaged together — the longevity of four decades of service combined with the exceptional performance — you put that all together, and to me that’s an extraordinary career.”
The Wisconsin Air National Guard Hall of Fame honors Airmen whose special contributions and high level of dedication helped ensure the overall success of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.
Current Soldiers and Airmen were recognized for outstanding accomplishments from earlier in the year.
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Safer, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, introduced this year’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year — Senior Airman Cullen Pedersen, surveillance technician with the 128th Air Control Squadron, Airman of the Year; Master Sgt. Ryan Branz, aerospace ground equipment technician with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Timothy Kenney, an aircraft electrical and environmental systems specialist supervisor with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Sara Jensen, first sergeant for the 115th Fighter Wing maintenance squadron, First Sergeant of the Year; and Capt. Cedar Hamilton, air battle manager with the 128th Air Control Squadron, Company Grade Officer of the Year.
“Our program is designed to recognize the best and brightest who have made significant contributions to the mission, and have gone well above and beyond the call of duty,” Safer said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, senior enlisted leader for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, introduced the 2018 Soldiers of the Year — Spc. Austen Jahnke, an Eau Claire, Wisconsin resident and a machine gunner with Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, who represented Wisconsin at the National Guard Best Warrior Competition in July, Soldier of the Year; Staff Sgt. Clayton Smith, a Waukesha, Wisconsin resident and a forward observer with the Berlin, Wisconsin-based Detachment 1, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery who represented Wisconsin at the Region IV Best Warrior Competition in May, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; and Capt. Phillip Southworth, a Green Bay, Wisconsin resident and commander of Company B, 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, Company Grade Officer of the Year.