Changing of the guard for the Red Arrow Brigade

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joy Staab
  • Wisconsin National Guard
The Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned from a successful yearlong deployment to Iraq earlier this year and is now moving forward with new leadership following a change of command ceremony July 10 at Camp Williams.

Col. Steven Bensend, Prescott, and Command Sgt. Maj. Edgar Hansen, Manitowoc, formally transferred leadership of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Col. Martin Seifer, Seymour, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, River Falls.

Hansen assumed the responsibilities of command sergeant major in July 2006. Bensend took command of the 32nd Brigade in February 2008 and together they immediately began preparing the unit for its upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Under their leadership, the 32nd Brigade deployed to Iraq in the largest overseas operational deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard since World War II. They were tasked with a variety of missions including base defense, detainee guard force operations at theater internment facilities, closing the largest internment facility in Iraq, transferring detainees, operating an academy to train Iraqi corrections officers, securing and administering the International Zone in Baghdad, and turning over U.S.-controlled properties back the government of Iraq.

For their accomplishments, the 32nd Brigade headquarters company received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and several other companies received Meritorious Unit Citations.

The 32nd Brigade consists of nearly 3,500 soldiers assigned to 46 separate units across the state and has deployed twice in support of Operation Iraq Freedom.

Hansen, a combat veteran of campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, received a waiver to delay his military retirement past age 60 in order to deploy with the 32nd. His retirement from the National Guard is slated for later this month.

"Remember," Hansen said during the ceremony, "you can take the Soldier out of the Army, but you can never take the Army out of the Soldier."

Hansen will continue to serve the Guard by working as a civilian for the family assistance program in Appleton (See related story at

"Carry on the culture [of the 32nd Brigade]," Bensend said to the incoming leadership. "Do what's right every time, take the high road no matter how difficult it may be, and always have the loyalty to take care of your Soldiers, because Soldiers have the loyalty to follow the examples of their leaders."

Bensend has completed more than 32 years of military service and will continue his career on the Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Staff, and plans to spend more time with his wife, Leslie, and sons, John and Luke.

The new leadership team has more than 58 years of combined military service and is ready for their new positions.

"I'm going to take this opportunity to ensure we become the best Soldiers we can," Conde said. "Our families, our friends, our state, our nation are all dependent upon us."

Conde is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He and his wife, Jennifer, are residents of River Falls and have five children - Blake, Lindsay, Erica, Katrina and Michael. He works full time at Chartwells Dining service as a district manager.

Seifer has also completed two tours of combat duty, the most recent during the 32nd Brigade's recent tour to Iraq where he served as an installations director. When not on military duty he serves as a project manager at Schneider National Inc. - an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve award recipient.

"We do not know when the next chapter of the Red Arrow story will be written," Seifer said after the change of command ceremony. "But in today's current operating environment we must continue to lean forward in our foxhole, as an operational [Guard] we must be more prepared and ready than in the past when called upon our by our state and federal leaders. And we intend to do just that."

Seifer and his wife, Denise, are residents of Seymour with their daughters Kalyn, Alexandria and Kendra. He is a graduate of Logan High School, La Crosse, and holds an associate degree in information services from Fox Valley Technical College and a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.