The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 829th Engineer Company is spread across the Middle East and Southwest Asia making an impact wherever they go.
The Ashland and Spooner, Wisconsin-based unit mobilized for deployment in October 2019 and began its construction mission in support of a fellow Army National Guard engineer battalion from Indiana.
Since arriving in theater, the approximately 150 Soldiers have been spread across multiple locations and hard at work on a vast array of projects improving facilities for coalition forces and completing other mission essential construction projects.
“Thus far our biggest accomplishments have been the work completed on our command cell, carpentry projects throughout Kuwait, equipment service rate of completion, and numerous projects completed on multiple posts within Afghanistan,” company 1st Sgt. Sean Ringer, a Wisconsin Rapids resident, said.
“The most rewarding part for me has been the bond that many have created within the group as well as watching the mentorship that occurs between one another,” he said.
“I hope we made life more sustainable for the troops within the camps we work in as well as provide those much needed force protection builds to ensure everyone remains as safe as possible with maximum protection,” he added.
As company first sergeant, Ringer is charged with ensuring the morale and welfare of the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, and others who make up the unit. The Soldiers, he said, are in high spirits, eager, and motivated to do their jobs and complete more projects.
“The Soldiers within this company are dedicated to the unit, eager to learn, and crave more,” he said. “The majority volunteered to come with this unit. Their hearts are in the right place to conduct the job.”
Ringer said a key part of the unit’s high spirits has been the incredible support from the people of Wisconsin, loved ones, and local communities. Others echoed that sentiment.
“I'm extremely grateful for all the support received from family, friends and co-workers,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Bruins, the company’s executive officer, and a Colgate resident. “While it's difficult to be away for several months, the outpouring of support from back home has been tremendous.”
Bruins said he is looking forward to the unit hitting its stride as it approaches the midway point of its mobilization.
“So far so good,” he said. “However, the best is yet to come. The majority of our work to date has been preparing for what comes next. With mobilization training completed and equipment updated from shipping to operational configuration, we're excited to receive and execute new missions.
“We're still in the early chapters of the deployment, so many accomplishments are still to come,” he continued. “Individual Soldiers have made tremendous progress with physical fitness goals and completing required military education. Currently the unit has several larger projects either just beginning or about to kick-off.”
One of those Soldiers is Staff Sgt. Mason Albright, a squad leader who hails from Columbia Heights, Minnesota.
“Higher than I have ever seen a unit,” he said of the unit’s morale. “I attribute this to kind and fair leadership as well as a motivated lower enlisted base.”
Albright said the unit really came together over the course of the past few months and developed what he expects will be lifelong bonds.
“Hardworking men and women who I am glad to have here with me,” he said of the 829th Soldiers serving alongside him. “Many of them will prove to be effective leaders in the future, and the mission we are conducting will only serve to help their personal and professional development.”
Asked what made him most proud of his service and the unit’s mission overseas, he said, “The fact that the majority of Soldiers here volunteered for this mission shows the dedication and patriotism by all in the organization. I'm proud to be with a group of Soldiers that so perfectly portrays what it means to be an American patriot.”
Of course, many of the Soldiers said that while the mission is going well and morale remains high, they miss their families and loved ones.
“Thankfully technology has made staying in touch with loved ones easier than ever,” Bruins said.
The 829th Engineer Company is one of several Wisconsin Army National Guard units deployed overseas in support of its federal mission as the Army’s primary combat reserve right now. The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Headquarters and approximately 160 Soldiers deployed to Ukraine last fall as part of Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine, where it is serving as the headquarters element the training group at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. The 400 Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry remain in Afghanistan where they are serving as the security element for an Army Security Force Assistance Brigade. The 924th Engineer Facilities Detachment and the 1967th Contracting Team also mobilized for deployments to Kuwait and the Horn of Africa respectively in January.
Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling are also deployed around the globe.