News: Deployed Wisconsin Guard unit leaders update families via video call
Story by Vaughn Larson
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Morale is high after roughly two months in Afghanistan, leaders in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, reported to family members in a brief live video message Sunday, March 24.
Battery B, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) unit, is the first National Guard field artillery unit to conduct fire support missions in Afghanistan. However, the unit is not at liberty to discuss its missions, so the video call — part of a Badger Yellow Ribbon event designed to provide benefits information and address concerns for families early in the deployment cycle — focused on more sundry details.
First Sgt. Steve Czekala said that the unit does not need baby wipes or candy, but some soldiers would like certain brand hygiene products not available at their operating base. "And brats," he quipped, underscoring the Wisconsin unit's passion for German fry sausage.
Capt. Matthew Mangerson, Battery B commander, reassured family members that their soldiers are not lacking any needed items on this deployment.
"One thing's for sure — there's definitely no shortage on quantity," he said of the dining facilities in Afghanistan. "Everybody gets plenty to eat. Everything a Soldier needs is absolutely available."
Czekala took advantage of the opportunity to praise the families back in Wisconsin.
"Deployments are hard," he acknowledged. "They're hard on us but I think it's especially hard on you. We don't have to deal with appliances breaking. I have a great deal of admiration for you back home to go ahead and take care of things while you're worrying about us. The guys here all do really appreciate it."
Mangerson lauded the unit's Family Readiness Group as the most active and involved he's seen in three deployments.
The video call provided Brenda Czekala her first opportunity to see her husband since the unit deployed earlier this year.
"It was a little bit hard to see him," she said. "I'm happy that they're all doing well."
"It's just nice to see them," added Robyn Lemke, wife of Sgt. 1st Class John Lemke. "[A setting like this] is very important. We've been doing a lot at the armory, just regular get-togethers. This is kind of more formal."
Another Badger Yellow Ribbon session will be held within the last two months of the deployment focusing on reunion issues.