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Wisconsin National Guard's most diverse battalion builds readiness through combined training

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MARCOA Media
Story by SGT Kati Stacy on 08/26/2019
FORT MCCOY, Wis. The diverse units of the Wisconsin National Guard's 641st Troop Command Battalion came together from across the state to prepare for their state and federal missions during this year's annual training in August at Fort McCoy.

The 641st is the Wisconsin Army National Guard's most diverse battalion, with units ranging from an engineer company to a chemical company, contracting team, public affairs detachment, medical company, and more, to a band.

The battalion came together to hone their individual military occupational specialty (MOS) and Soldiering skills to build their readiness, as well as to teach those from other units about the jobs that they are each experts on. The battalion is made up of a variety of units that have unique missions, such as the 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, the 135th Area Support Medical Company, the 273rd Engineer Company, the 457th Chemical Company, and the Headquarters Company, which provide command and control for the Wisconsin Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package CERFP.

In an effort to enhance readiness, the unit has put an emphasis in recent years on training collectively as a battalion whenever possible, rather than training as individual companies. Being able to cross train, coordinate and collaborate across the many different companies develops a level of understanding and camaraderie which only enhances the unique missions of the 641st. And while their individual unit missions are often vastly different, their core missions remain the same building readiness to fulfill the National Guard's role as the state's first military responder during times of emergency, and mobilizing to federal service as the Army's primary combat reserve.

"It's actually really neat seeing how other MOS's intertwine with each other," said Sgt. Shawn Lane, a team leader in 3rd Platoon, 273rd Engineer Company. "Many of us have to come together to complete the CERFP mission, and training like this helps us to learn more about how missions like that are completed from many different perspectives."

The CERFP is a highly trained and specialized unit made up of Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 273rd Engineer Company in Medford, the 457th Chemical Company in Hartford and Burlington, and a command and control element from the 641st Troop Command Battalion headquarters in Madison, as well as Airmen from the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing's medical group, a communications team, and a fatality search and recovery team. It is specifically designed to respond to a variety of scenarios, and it can tailor or flex its response depending on the scenario.

"Being intertwined with the CERFP, there's always a chance of being called up," reflected Capt. Missy Winterfeldt, commander of the 641st Troop Command Headquarters. "Working together, doing trainings together regardless of what it is, it's beneficial because we'll always be ready and we'll always be able to handle the mission when we are called up."

Soldiers of the battalion were given the opportunity to train with one another in new ways, many getting an opportunity to learn the basics of other specialties and even try their hand at some of the tasks other units often complete. Units completed training on wide array of tasks, which reflected the diverse nature of the battalion including operating Stryker vehicles and Zodiac inflatable boats, launching an M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) training round, placing explosive charges and breaching targets, as well as conducting medical and decontamination scenarios.

"This kind of training is great because it brings soldiers together, it makes camaraderie stronger, and helps the up-and-coming Soldiers to become better leaders," said Sgt. Danyatta Brown, an assistant team leader with the 457th Chemical Company.

Lt. Col. Paul Felician, commander to the 641st Troop Command Battalion, finds value in bringing together the diverse units to train together.

"Training like this, where you get to see a lot of the unique mission sets that the Army has overall, is something that you rarely get to see," Felician stated. "It really portrays the depth and breadth of what the Army does. We want to have scalable, ready Soldiers who can respond to any need. The training here directly prepares them to do whatever their particular skill is, so it is directly related to our ability to respond and meet the needs of not only our constituents here in the state but also the nation."

Command Sgt. Maj. Dale Gabrielson, the battalion's senior enlisted leader, recognized that the uniqueness of the battalion aids in the overall readiness of responding when called upon.

"With having such diversity and so many capabilities within one battalion, we are often called upon to aid the state and country" Gabrielson said. "To have these troops trained and ready when needed, at any time, is key to the readiness of the Wisconsin National Guard."

The 641st is one of the battalions in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's most diverse brigade the Madison-based 64th Troop Command, which also includes the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation, and 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, and 54th Civil Support Team. The Wisconsin Army National Guard includes three other major subordinate commands as well the 32nd "Red Arrow" Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquartered in Camp Douglas, the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade headquartered in Milwaukee, and the 426th Regiment Regional Training Institute at Fort McCoy.

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