Announcement Module
No announcement yet.

Deployments not scaring off Wis. Guard recruits

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
Conversation Detail Module
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Deployments not scaring off Wis. Guard recruits

    By Doug Zellmer - Oshkosh (Wis.) Northwestern
    Posted : Wednesday Dec 28, 2011 4:15:08 EST

    Ben Woodward enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard with his eyes wide open to the possibility that he might have to fight in a war.

    The thought of being deployed to the battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq didn’t deter the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student when he enlisted 2½ years ago. He is a soldier in the Oshkosh, Wis.-based 1157th Wisconsin Army National Guard Transportation Company, which deploys to Kuwait early next year to help clear equipment from the country now that the war in Iraq is over.

    “I had the mindset that if a deployment happened to a combat zone it would be a good experience. The training we’ve had has helped us through that,” said Woodward, a junior majoring in physical education and a sergeant with the unit. “I’ve gotten money for school and I’m also doing something for my country.”

    Expectations were different 10 years age for new enlistees.

    Staff Sgt. Katy Werginz, who is a member of the 1157th and is a police officer for the village of New Glarus in Green County, said she enlisted in July 2001.

    “My recruiter informed me we could be deployed in a humanitarian-type mission, but probably wouldn’t be deployed to a combat area unless World War III broke out,” she said.

    Then Sept. 11 happened.

    Indeed, the Wisconsin Army National Guard has changed drastically since, with a much stronger emphasis on readiness for combat, said National Guard Major Tim Paterson, commander of joint forces headquarters in Madison.

    “We basically have been fully integrated into the active duty force with rotations of deployment every three or four years. Before 9/11, the chance of being sent to an actual military or combat theater was very low,” said Paterson, who has nearly 23 years with the guard.

    He said the Guard has new and modern equipment and much more sophisticated training since 9/11.

    “Ten years ago we were more of a reserve-type force and the thinking was we’d be called up for domestic natural disaster type things,” Paterson said. “The Guard has evolved and things have really ramped up for the Guard, which is used as a supplement for active-duty forces. It’s kind of amazing now how readily they’ve been sending guard units for deployment.”

    Deployment overseas — possibly for combat — did not deter Alex Beiser from joining more than three years ago. He is a senior majoring in criminal justice at UW-Oshkosh and will be part of the Kuwait deployment as a member of the 1157th.

    Beiser said he’s getting anxious.

    “It will be a new experience and a challenging one,” Beiser said. “Being in the Guard and being deployed is a very unique experience that many people don’t get the opportunity to be part of. I personally believe that being in the 1157th would be a good life experience. I think I’ve gotten a lot out of it and I appreciate my freedoms more.”

    Whatever the circumstances for enlisting, the 131 soldiers of the 1157th are part of a team, whose mission in Kuwait will include providing base and convoy protection during the drawdown of the United States’ military presence in Iraq.

    It will be the fifth time since 1990 the unit has been called to active duty. The 1157th was last deployed in 2006 for a year in Iraq.

    Veterans of the unit are invaluable in dispensing information about mobilization and deployment to soldiers with much less experience.

    “I’ll give them a rundown about what will happen before we get to Kuwait and about the training we will do,” Werginz said. “I tell them to pay attention because you never know when you’ll need it to help save somebody’s life.”

    She’s had first-hand experience of life in a war zone. Werginz said she remembers a mortar from enemy troops hitting a guard tower when the 1157th was stationed in Iraq. One of her buddies was in the guard tower and Werginz said it was a life-changing experience because it made her aware of everything she had back at home.

    “I heard the explosion and saw smoke billowing out of the tower,” she said. “The training kicks in on everything we have been taught. I radioed in what had happened and that there were injured soldiers, who would need evacuation. I grabbed a first aid bag and started running to the tower. I never moved so fast with an extra 50 pounds on.”

    Werginz said her friend and fellow soldier was injured, but lived.

    Staff Sgt. Dominic Renteria, who will have served 12 years with the 1157th in March, said he takes pride in helping the unit’s younger soldiers.

    “I know what it’s like and I can relate to what they are going through,” said Renteria, who is also a squad leader for the unit and is a banker with degrees in business and finance at UWO. “I want them to be ready when they deploy. They will be doing something they never did before, so I want to make sure they have a strong support system for their families.”

    Werginz said she plans to stay with the 1157th for quite some time, regardless of what the calling is for the unit in years to come.

    “I love the unit. I enjoy going to drill, being a soldier and being with my friends. When you have a good place to be you want to stay there,” she said. “I expect to go the full 20 years [before retiring from the military] and I’m half way there.”