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Wisconsin National Guard: Serving the state, nation for 185 Years

By Kat Halfman

GREEN BAY – Coming from a long line of military service, Sergeant Chris Lauerman said he knew from an early age that he wanted to serve.

With a grandfather who served in World War II and a Marine father who served in Vietnam, Lauerman joined the Wisconsin Army Cadets, a military career exploration program for young men and women, when he was 14 years old – following in his family’s footsteps.

Three years later, at the age of 17, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard, joining his family’s legacy and that of the Wisconsin National Guard, which is celebrating its 185th birthday.

Lauerman has since served as a member of the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment based in Green Bay.

Recent guard service

Sergeant Chris Lauerman, left, with fellow members of the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment based in Green Bay, during their 2019 deployment to Afghanistan. Submitted Photo

Lauerman said from 2002-20, he and the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment, from Green Bay, were only deployed stateside once – to Florida in 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Lauerman said he’s been deployed internationally three times – to Iraq in 2002-06 and again in 2009-10, and to Afghanistan in 2019.

Most of his deployments, he said, consisted of convoy security work, where he transported local military, diplomats and prisoners.

Lauerman said the Bravo 2-127 Infantry did a variety of work in Afghanistan, including serving as part of the “Guardian Angel Squad,” providing security for Afghan military advisors and troops, battle-tracking and base/tower guarding.

The guard’s role in Wisconsin expanded when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Lauerman said the guard began to be deployed locally to assist at the polls, serve as nurses to combat shortages and administer COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.

He said the Bravo 2-127 Infantry has also been activated three times for civil disturbances to help keep the peace – for example during the protests in Kenosha.

The culture

Lauerman describes the culture of the Wisconsin National Guard as unique.

“The guard is very unique, because we have both that federal and state mission, and it can be difficult to juggle the two,” he said. “But ultimately, the state mission is what inspired me to join the guard. Being able to go grab a beer with a guy from the unit, or running into them at the mall, that local aspect really appeals to me, as well as being able to give back to my community.”

Lauerman said one of his favorite aspects of serving in the Wisconsin National Guard is seeing the impact his service has locally.

“Serving locally is more immediately rewarding because the deployments are shorter and you see the impact of your service daily,” he said.

Lauerman said he also actively volunteers with the Wisconsin Army Cadets, where his military service began, in an effort to stay connected with the community and his roots.

“Being a leader and training new guys is a super rewarding experience,” he said. “Deploying with them can be bittersweet, but it’s also gratifying to finally get out and do the job that you’ve been training to do.”

Origin of the guard

The history of the Wisconsin National Guard can be traced back to before Wisconsin had even achieved statehood, and it’s a history that began right here in Green Bay.

Henry Dodge, governor of what was then the Wisconsin Territory, commissioned Morgan Martin of Green Bay as a captain and the commander of the Green Bay Rangers, a volunteer company of mounted riflemen March 5, 1837.

Called the State Militia at the time, it wasn’t until 1879 – when the state began to set aside more funding for training, encampments and equipment – that the effort began being officially referred to as the Wisconsin National Guard.

However, it wasn’t until 1903 that it began to transform into what it is today.

Federal funding was finally granted, and guard units were officially given the same training as active Army members.

In exchange for this, however, the president gained the authority to call the National Guard to federal service for up to nine months, if needed.

When the National Defense Act was passed in 1916, it increased the amount of federally-funded training and allowed entire National Guard units to be drafted into federal service.

Before this point, the National Guard could not serve outside of the country.

Mere weeks after the act was passed, the guard units from each state were deployed along the Mexican-U.S. border, and within a year they were called into federal service for World War I.

The 32nd Division, which at the time consisted of all Wisconsin National Guard members, became known as the piercing Red Arrow Division.

To this day, an arrow patch on the civilian soldiers’ arm pays homage to the Red Arrow Division.

The guard was summoned again two decades later to serve in World War II, and again for the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

“The Wisconsin National Guard has history in nearly every conflict our nation has fought dating back to the Civil War,” Major Joe Trovato, deputy director of Public Affairs Wisconsin National Guard, said.

It was the first National Guard unit mobilized to advance American foreign policy that aimed to prevent a third world war.

Trovato said as Wisconsin evolved and developed over the years, so too did the Wisconsin National Guard, transforming into something quite different from its humble origins.

Today, the guard consists of citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen prepared to deploy anywhere, at any time, to support community, state and federal missions.

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