Approximately 25 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers continue to foster relationships with allied nations in the Middle East.
The Soldiers of the 157th Military Engagement Team (MET), from the Milwaukee-based 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, are split between Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, traveling extensively throughout their deployment and building stronger partnerships through joint military exercises, military-to-military non-training engagements and assessment of partner nation military capabilities.
“We have had the opportunity to expand our understanding of the world, experience different cultures first-hand, and developed relationships that bond beyond just person to person, but military to military,” said Capt. Alexander Fhlug, a future operations officer with Military Engagement Team Jordan (MET-J).
Fhlug said the Soldiers making up the team based in Jordan are in full sprint mode, having completed more missions to date than their predecessors did in their entire deployment.
“Our mission here in Jordan is crucial to not only the country, but to the region as a whole,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Wong, the assistant operations noncommissioned officer with MET-J. “We work with the Jordanian Armed Forces border guard forces to ensure they are proficient in border security operations.”
Wong stated that this year is and has been crucial for border guard forces due to conflict in Syria, the close proximity of ISIS forces, and displaced persons and smugglers attempting to cross the border. The border guard forces have been successful in dealing with these challenges.
Soldiers with the Wisconsin National Guard bring unique skill sets with them on any mission they conduct since they have civilian careers and experiences outside of their military occupational specialties, making them ideal for conducting engagement missions.
In Wisconsin, Fhlug works for the office of Gov. Scott Walker as an external relations coordinator, and Wong works as a police officer. They both said communications skills, such as the ability to go into meetings with people who are like-minded or have completely different goals in mind and coming out with an amicable solution, are a critical aspect from their civilian careers that have impacted their interactions in the Middle East.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Benjamin, the MET’s information technology noncommissioned officer in charge, described the deployment as demanding and challenging, but very rewarding. He recalled that his first engagement with a host nation didn’t go as planned since the material they presented initially didn’t meet expectations.
“The best part was the subsequent days of the engagement, delivering newly-developed presentation materials that we quite literally put together overnight, and earning their respect and appreciation for a great engagement,” Benjamin said.
He added that the MET’s mission has made a positive impact in the region while building partnerships with our allies.
For Master Sgt. Todd Olig, the logistics noncommissioned officer in charge with the MET, one of the highlights of the deployment so far was conducting an engagement in Pakistan. He added that a MET hadn’t been to Pakistan in over two years.
“The unit has performed remarkably, making missions happen at astounding rates, sometimes with little notice, along with keeping up with our own jobs in the unit and covering down on jobs of others while they are in other countries,” Olig said.
All of the Soldiers said that support from loved ones and the communities back home has been great. They have received an abundance of care packages and been able to communicate adequately with loved ones when they have down time.
Olig was especially grateful for the Communities of Lomira and Brownsville, and the Lomira Sports Teams who helped with cleanup efforts on his property in Wisconsin after tornados tore through the area in late August.
The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously continues to maintain a high operational tempo with worldwide deployments in support of its federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. More than 350 Soldiers from the Milwaukee-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery deployed to the Middle East this summer and more than 25 Soldiers from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s Military Engagement Team deployed to the Middle East in March. Meanwhile, a team of Soldiers from the 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment deployed to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in March to provide public affairs support there.
Nearly 30 Soldiers from the West Bend-based 248th General Aviation Support Battalion recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East. Wisconsin Army National Guard aviators from Detachment 5, 641st Aviation returned from Afghanistan earlier this summer, and approximately 85 Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation returned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in January. Another 35 Soldiers from West Bend’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November 2017.
Also in November, approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing returned to Madison from a deployment to Korea, and more than 100 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadron at Volk Field returned from Southwest Asia. Approximately 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee recently completed worldwide deployments as well.
Meanwhile, nearly 400 Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry are slated to deploy to Afghanistan this winter.