Wisconsin National Guard – Approximately 150 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry are slated to return to Wisconsin today after nearly seven months in Afghanistan.
The returning troops are among those identified as part of larger drawdown of troops in Afghanistan announced earlier this year. They landed at Fort Hood, Texas earlier this month, where they completed post-mobilization requirements before returning to Wisconsin.
Due to restrictions stemming from COVID-19, a traditional homecoming ceremony was not possible today, but senior leaders from the Wisconsin National Guard will greet the Soldiers when their plane arrives. The troops will then return via bus to local Wisconsin Army National Guard armories in Eau Claire, Abbotsford, Menomonie, New Richmond, Rice Lake, Arcadia, Onalaska, and River Falls, where their families will greet them.
The group represents only a fraction of the nearly 400 “Red Arrow” Soldiers that originally mobilized for deployment to Afghanistan in July 2019. The remaining 250 Soldiers continue operations in Afghanistan in support of the Army’s 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade – or SFAB – and are expected to return in accordance with the mobilization’s original timeline.
The 128th mobilized in July 2019 to replace their fellow Red Arrow brethren – the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry – in Afghanistan.
The Wisconsin National Guard continues to maintain a high operations tempo in support of both its federal and state missions. More than 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops continue their deployments overseas serving as the primary combat reserve for the Army and Air Force, while hundreds of Citizen Soldiers and Airmen continue supporting the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin.
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 remaining 250 Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry remain in Afghanistan where they are serving as the security element for the 3rd SFAB, and the approximately 150 Soldiers of the 829th Engineer Company continue operations across the Middle East and Afghanistan. The 924th Engineer Facilities Detachment and the 1967th Contracting Team also mobilized for deployments to Kuwait and the Horn of Africa respectively in January.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard troops are serving in Wisconsin establishing COVID-19 mobile testing sites and collecting specimens, helping staff self-isolation facilities in Milwaukee and Madison, and running warehouse operations to ensure critical personal protective equipment flows to areas of need in the state. More than 2,400 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen also staffed polling locations during Wisconsin’s April 7 election amidst a statewide shortage of poll workers.