32nd Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate)
The 32nd Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate) is Wisconsin's 3,900 soldiers of Wisconsin's largest Army National Guard unit. Until September 2001, the brigade was a mechanized unit assigned as part of the Minnesota-based 34th Infantry Division. As a result of the Army Division Redesign Study, the Brigade's units are undergoing conversions, such as the 1st Bn/ 632nd Armor "converting" to 2nd Bn/128th Infantry.
While assigned to the 34th, associated with the 32nd Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) were a direct support Field Artillery Battalion (1-120 FA), a Forward Support Battalion (132d FSB) and a direct support Engineer Battalion (173rd EN). Additionally, an Engineer Battalion would have been assigned when the Brigade was to be officially assigned to the Division. These additional battalions would have given the Brigade the ability to conduct combat operations on the battlefield.
The 32nd began transforming in September 2001 into a separate light infantry brigade. By shedding its heavy tracked vehicles - tanks, self-propelled howitzers and armored personnel carriers - the brigade will gain the agility favored by the leadership of the Army.
The brigade is descended from the 32nd "Red Arrow" Division, an infantry outfit formed of Wisconsin and Michigan Guardsmen mobilized in 1916. The division earned its distinctive insignia, a vertical red arrow through a horizontal red bar, by piercing every enemy line it encountered in four World War I campaigns. The Red Arrow Division was mobilized again in October 1940 before the U.S. entered World War II; played a key role in capturing Buna, a strategic enemy stronghold in Papua New Guinea, in 1942; and logged a total of 654 days in combat - more than any other U.S. Army division in any war. In October 1961, President John F. Kennedy called the division to federal service during the Berlin Crisis; the unit served until August 1962 at Fort Lewis, WA, before returning to Wisconsin.
In 1967, the 32nd Division - by then made up entirely of Wisconsin units - was deactivated and reorganized as the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade. In 1971, the brigade was converted to mechanized infantry. In 1997, the 32nd reorganized from a separate to a divisional brigade, reducing in the process the staff of its headquarters from 300 down to 85.
After it is converted back to light infantry, Army officials plan to designate the 32nd an "enhanced" brigade, eligible for a higher level of funding and other resources than most National Guard brigades receive. Changing the brigade's shape to fit the profile of a light brigade will also mean significant benefits for the unit and for the state, including more than $6 million a year in additional federal funds to operate units and provide training and logistics support. This should also translate into an increase in the number of physical assets, such as trucks and scoop loaders, which become available to the state in an emergency.
Major changes in the structure of the 32nd Infantry Brigade are as follows:
- One new infantry battalion - the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry - is formed to fill the brigade's three-battalion infantry complement.
- The 173rd Engineer Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 632nd Armor, are deactivated. Similar or related missions are assigned to new, smaller units - the 32nd Engineer Company and Troop E, 105th Cavalry, a light reconnaissance unit.
- The 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery will convert from the 55,000-pound 155 mm self-propelled howitzer to the more easily transported 4,475-pound 105 mm towed howitzer.
- The brigade adds an intelligence unit, the 232nd Military Intelligence Company.
- New detachments are formed in the 132nd Support Battalion to provide transportation support to the brigade's three infantry battalions.
- The 32nd Brigade headquarters moves from Madison to Camp Douglas and Wausau - locations more central to the brigade's statewide units.
The changing mission of the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade (Mech.) from mechanized to light infantry also brought many changes for the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Fort McCoy. The 32nd is part of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. MATES is owned and operated by the State of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Army Guard so it is tasked to support the 32nd's equipment needs. MATES was required to bring 32nd equipment not necessary for light infantry, such as M-1 Tanks and the M-113A3 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), up to Army standards so it can be re-distributed to other units. The loss of this equipment is expected to cause some attrition in the MATES work force. Some of that attrition is expected to be mitigated by MATES assuming additional organizational missions of supporting the 229th and 32nd Engineer companies, the 107th Maintenance Company and the 426th Leadership Regiment.
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