FORT BLISS, Texas — For approximately nine months, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery operated in 15 locations across six countries in the Middle East conducting general support fire missions and working with High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) units from military partners to build joint readiness.
That mission ended May 1 with a transfer of authority ceremony, and approximately 350 Soldiers from the 121st Field Artillery are now back in the United States. Senior Wisconsin Army National Guard leaders greeted the returning Soldiers upon their arrival at Fort Bliss, Texas.
To accomplish its mission across an immense geographic area — Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan — National Guard Soldiers and equipment from Utah, New Jersey, Florida and North Carolina augmented the 121st Field Artillery with security force and HIMARS capabilities. The battalion reorganized units into light HIMARS packages — essentially cutting a standard four-launcher platoon in half, and adding maintenance, communications and medical support personnel — to spread their reach and improve the capability of ground force commanders requesting general fire support.
During this deployment, the 121st Field Artillery destroyed or neutralized enemy forces, helping defeat the Islamic State “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, as well as degrading Taliban and ISIS-K operations in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support.
The 121st Field Artillery also trained with the United Arab Emirates’ 74th Cannon Regiment and Jordan’s 29th Royal HIMARS Battalion in support of Operation Spartan Shield, establishing a foundation for future exercise designed to leverage each nation’s capabilities to support regional security.
This was the first deployment for the 121st Field Artillery since 2006, when it performed a convoy escort mission in Iraq. Parts of the battalion deployed with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Iraq in 2009. Battery B, based in Plymouth, Wisconsin, deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, becoming the first Army National Guard HIMARS unit to conduct combat fire support missions there. Battery A deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 for the same fire support mission.
The completion of this deployment underscores how the Wisconsin National Guard fulfills its mission as a key component of the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. Earlier this year, nearly 30 Soldiers from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s Military Engagement Team returned to Wisconsin from a nine-month Middle East deployment where the unit was split between Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Also earlier this year, approximately half of the 20-person 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment returned from a deployment to U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo in support of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission. The 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry deployed to the Central Command theater of operations earlier this year, with part of the nearly 400-Soldier unit providing security for the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade in Afghanistan.
The 121st Field Artillery is expected to return to Wisconsin in approximately two weeks, after completing demobilization requirements at Fort Bliss.