MILWAUKEE – Col. Eric Leckel, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, told 280 deploying Soldiers and their families and friends about the historic nature of their upcoming Africa mission at a ceremony Sept. 30.
“This is one of the most unique, diverse and challenging missions a unit will ever have the opportunity to partake in,” Leckel said. “Each and every one of the Soldiers of the 157th MEB will be a critical piece within the only standing force on the continent of Africa.”
That would be Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, an operation of U.S. Africa Command. The combined joint task force’s mission is to promote regional security and stability, dissuade conflict, and protect U.S. and coalition interests in the region.
Leckel said the 157th MEB headquarters company and the 357th Signal Company would contribute strategically to the overall U.S. global security objective.
“Your work on a daily basis will make the African continent a better place,” Leckel said. “You will improve the lives of countless individuals, ensuring they have the opportunity for a brighter future. Each and every one of you are a history maker and a world changer.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, told the troops they were about to write a new page in Wisconsin history.
“The world is at a critical juncture, and our adversaries are looking to expand their corrupting grasp across the globe,” Knapp said. “The 157 and 357 will play a key role in stemming these attempts by our adversaries.”
According to CJTF-HOA, Russia and China have long sought to increase their influence across the African continent. Violent extremist organizations such as terrorist groups and pirates are also among U.S. adversaries in the region.
“Partnerships are, and will continue to be, the key to success in an open and orderly world,” Knapp said. “Your actions abroad will have a direct effect on the security of our homeland, on the safety and prosperity of our friends, families, coworkers and neighbors.
Gov. Tony Evers thanked the Soldiers for their service, noting that some of them supported recent state missions — staffing polling stations, running COVID-19 test locations and assisting in Operation Allies Welcome.
“You serve and continue to serve our state admirably and selflessly,” Evers said, “and I’m so proud to call you Citizen-Soldiers for the Wisconsin National Guard.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Duane Weyer, the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said the Soldiers would work with other U.S. military branches and partner nations and better understand the cultures and complexities of afflicted regions of the world.
“The opportunity to work within such a diverse environment is invaluable, and we will be a better-rounded organization because of it,” Weyer said. “I look forward to the days when we will return your Soldiers home to their families and friends. Until then, we remember our heritage, cultivate our culture and prepare to make history.”