MADISON, Wisc. - The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Wisconsin Army National Guard received a mobilization order this week calling for the deployment of as many as 3,500 soldiers for an active duty mission in Iraq.
Mobilizing with the 32nd Brigade will be six other units, whose soldiers will augment the brigade to meet the deployment's specific mission requirements.
This will be the largest operational deployment of Wisconsin National Guard forces since World War II, according to a news release from the Wisconsin National Guard.
Notification to Soldiers, who had been on alert since December 2007, began Sept. 5 and continued through the weekend.
According to a Defense Department news release dated Dec. 3, 2007, the 32nd Brigade "will have a security force mission and be assigned tasks which will assure freedom of movement and continuity of operations" in Iraq.
The mobilization is expected to last about one year. The Wisconsin Army Guard units will report for duty at their local armories in mid-February and then train at a U.S. Army installation in Texas for about two months before deploying overseas. The soldiers will then spend about 10 months of the year-long mobilization in Iraq.
The 32nd Brigade has an authorized strength of about 3,450 soldiers with units in 36 Wisconsin communities.
Although the combined authorized strength of units on the mobilization order is about 4,500 soldiers, no more than 3,500 will actually be mobilized to fill positions required for the unit's missions.
Most of the 32nd Brigade's subordinate units have been previously mobilized in the seven years since Sept. 11, 2001.
The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is descended from the 32nd "Red Arrow" Division, an infantry organization formed of Wisconsin and Michigan Guardsmen serving in Texas in 1917.
Called to active federal service again for World War I, the division earned its distinctive insignia -- a vertical red arrow through a horizontal red bar -- by piercing every enemy line it faced in four World War I campaigns: Alsace, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne.
The Red Arrow Division was mobilized again in October 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II. Most of the Red Arrow Division's soldiers fought in the Southwest Pacific, where they played a key role in capturing the Papua New Guinea enemy stronghold at Buna which was, in early 1943, among the first U.S. ground forces victories in the Pacific Theater.
The division went on to fight in the Philippines and ended the war as part of the occupation force on the home islands of Japan. The 32nd Division logged a total of 654 days of continuous World War II combat -- more than any other U.S. Army division in any war. Parts of the division also fought in North Africa and Europe.
In October 1961, President John F. Kennedy called the 32nd Division to federal service during the Berlin Crisis; the unit served until August 1962 at Fort Lewis, Wash., before returning to Wisconsin.
In 1967, the 32nd Division -- by then made up entirely of Wisconsin units -- was deactivated and reorganized as the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade. In 1986, the 32nd Infantry Brigade was the first brigade-sized National Guard unit in the nation to deploy all its personnel and equipment overseas for a major NATO exercise, which was conducted annually in West Germany during much of the Cold War.
Because the 32nd Brigade and other affected units had been alerted for the upcoming mobilization since December 2007, commanders have been conducting intensive additional training for their units for the past eight months. The units completed a longer-than-normal three week annual training at Fort McCoy in August, and another three-week annual training period is planned for January in Florida.
Completing rigorous training requirements before units arrive at their mobilization training sites allows for one-year mobilization durations -- significantly shorter than the 16 to 18-month (and sometimes longer) Army Guard mobilizations that were common before new Defense Department policies were announced in January 2007.
With this upcoming mobilization, more than 10,000 soldiers and airmen from the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard "” over 100 percent of the Guard's total force in the state "” will have served on active duty since September 11, 2001. This number exceeds 100 percent of the Guard's current number of personnel because of multiple mobilizations for many soldiers and airmen.
In addition to the mobilization of the 32nd Brigade Combat Team and six other units in February 2009, one other Wisconsin Army National Guard unit will also be mobilized in the coming year. The 951st Sapper Company of Tomahawk and Rhinelander, with an authorized strength of about 100 soldiers, will be ordered to active duty at the end of November for a security mission in Afghanistan.
Another unit, Tomah-based Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 732nd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, is on alert for a possible mobilization in the Spring of 2009. The unit has an authorized strength of about 75 soldiers.
Even after mobilization of the 32nd Brigade Combat Team and other units identified for mobilization in the coming year, the Wisconsin National Guard will still have more than 60 percent of its forces available in Wisconsin for any state emergency response that may be required.
With a total force of nearly 10,000, having well over half the force available -- about 6,000 soldiers and airmen -- represents a significant emergency response capability. Upcoming mobilizations do not involve either of the Guard's helicopter units or the state's 54th Civil Support Team.
Most of the Wisconsin National Guard's engineer units are also unaffected, and a 500-member rapid reaction force remaining in Wisconsin maintains the Guard's capability to provide a speedy security response anywhere in the state.