Camp Douglas, Wis. — More than 2,000 Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team will head to Michigan for annual training this summer in a historic reunion with its roots as a Wisconsin-Michigan division formed a century ago.
In 1917, as the U.S. prepared to enter the First World War raging across the Atlantic in Europe, the 32nd Division counted more than 15,000 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and 8,000 Michigan Soldiers among its ranks. The division had yet to earn its now famous nickname – the Red Arrow.
Badger and Wolverine Soldiers fought side-by-side in the trenches along the western front and earned great notoriety for their tenacity in combat. Michigan’s 125th and 126th Infantry and Wisconsin’s 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments became the only four National Guard regiments in the U.S. Army to earn the coveted Croix de Guerre from the French military for its actions in France. Their reputation was so fierce, the French came to call the men of the 32nd, “Les Terribles,” and it wasn’t until the end of the war, after the 32nd had pierced every enemy line it encountered including the famed Hindenburg Line, that the Red Arrow earned its now-famous unit insignia.
Michigan and Wisconsin Soldiers answered the call again a generation later in the Pacific Theater during World War II, when the Red Arrow spent more days in combat – 654 – than any other American division, as it fought through the Buna Campaign in New Guinea, to the Philippines and ultimately to Japan.
But after World War II, the 32nd became an all-Wisconsin division until 1967, when the division reorganized into a brigade. Prior to its reorganization as a brigade, the division had mobilized in the early 1960s during the Berlin Crisis, when it stood ready to answer the call once again.
Red Arrow Soldiers deployed to Iraq on multiple occasions in the years following September 11, 2001, as did Michigan National Guard Soldiers. But in 2017, Michigan’s 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry rejoined the ranks of the Red Arrow, and for the first time in 70 years, both Michigan and Wisconsin Soldiers wore the Red Arrow.
This summer marks the first time that they will train together collectively since World War II, as the entire 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team convoys to Camp Grayling, Michigan for a major exercise known as the Exportable Combat Training Center – or XCTC – exercise.
“It's been 70 years since Wisconsin and Michigan have trained together under a shared flag,” said Col. John Oakley, the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander. “We were ready then, and we are ready now. We have a shared vision and are committed to using this valuable training opportunity to ensure the 32nd is adaptable, flexible, resilient, robust and ready."
The XCTC exercise provides an opportunity for the Red Arrow to evaluate its combat readiness through a full-spectrum exercise. The National Guard has a unique dual-mission as both the first military responder here at home in times of emergency, but also as the Army’s primary combat reserve. XCTC will test the 32nd’s readiness to fulfill its federal mission to deliver dynamic combat power to the U.S. Army.
The exercise begins in mid-July and concludes at the end of the month.