OAK CREEK, Wis. — It began in 1880 as the Wisconsin National Guard’s Light Horse Squadron, and later became the First Wisconsin Cavalry. Much of its rich history was spent as a field artillery unit, including stints as anti-aircraft artillery and Wisconsin’s Nike missile base defense. It served in the Mexican Border Crisis, two world wars and was federalized for the Berlin Crisis in 1961. In 2008 it reorganized as the 257th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), part of the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
On Aug. 10, a day its outgoing commander described as “exciting and somber,” the 257th cased its colors — the battalion flag and battle streamers — during an inactivation ceremony in Oak Creek.
“Somber in that we will say goodbye to a great battalion with a distinguished lineage, and with talented and passionate Soldiers,” Maj. Sarah Bammel, battalion commander, said. “But also exciting in that we all have bright futures ahead of us as we continue our careers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.”
A recent Army-wide change in force structure eliminated brigade support battalions from maneuver enhancement brigades. Inactivating the 257th BSB will not affect the Wisconsin National Guard’s overall readiness for its federal mission as part of the nation’s primary combat reserve or its state mission as Wisconsin’s first military responder, as Soldiers assigned to the 257th will transfer to other units, in some cases reclassifying into a new military occupational specialty.
“I’m sure many of you Soldiers standing in formation put your heart and soul into this unit,” said Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army. “I want to thank you all for your hard work and effort in closing this unit — I know it took a lot of time. Thank you for your professionalism and patience.”
Oak Creek Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz said the 257th was part of the Oak Creek community.
“I’m proud to say this was your home these many years,” Bukiewicz said.
Bammel noted that the battalion’s contributions and sacrifices during World War I, World War II and the global war on terror were significant.
“The contributions to the communities of our great state of Wisconsin, and specifically to the cities of Oak Creek, Whitewater and Kenosha are also significant,” she said. “We have been very lucky to serve in a time when our community supports us without reservation, and we greatly appreciate that support.”
Bammel acknowledged Soldiers in the battalion who were active in the Oak Creek, Whitewater and Kenosha communities by participating in parades and youth sports, tutoring and volunteering.
“Your actions are what maintain positive civilian-to-military relations and help build the next generation of Soldiers.”
Other units will move into the 257th BSB’s armories. The battalion headquarters for the 121st Field Artillery will relocate from the Milwaukee-based Richards Street Armory to Oak Creek. The 32nd Military Police Company will relocate from the Richards Street Armory to the Kenosha, Wisconsin armory, which had been home to Company B, a support maintenance company. The 457th Chemical Company will consolidate its detachments in Hartford and Burlington, Wisconsin and relocate to the Whitewater, Wisconsin armory, which had been home to Company A, a distribution company.
“I am confident that these units will continue to support our communities and the relationships we’ve developed over the years,” Bammel said.
Before the unit colors were cased in a canvas sheath, Bammel spoke to the battalion one final time.
“I encourage you to remember the experiences you’ve had, the relationships you’ve developed, and those from our ranks who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “Be proud of where you’ve come from. Take care of yourself and each other.”
She concluded with the battalion motto, “Follow me.”