By Staff Sgt. Andy Poquette
Wisconsin National Guard
As Wisconsinites get ready for the biggest game of the year by donning Green Bay Packers colors and attending various celebrations throughout the state, Wisconsin Guard members in Iraq are creating their own festivities, despite being more than 6,000 miles away from home.
Just under 1,000 Wisconsin Guard Soldiers and Airmen are currently serving on active duty - mostly in Iraq including about 300 Madison-based Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment and 400 members of the 724th Engineer Battalion from several northern Wisconsin communities, and most plan to rise early to watch what they hope will be a Packer victory.
"We're all excited to watch the game early Monday morning, and we'll be cheering the Packers on to victory the best we can from Iraq," said 1st Lt. Joseph Waggoner of Menomonie, who's currently deployed with the 724th Engineer Battalion.
The full game, including the pre-game show, will be beamed by satellite to American Forces Network viewers and American Forces Radio (AFRTS) listeners in 175 countries and aboard Navy ships at sea. For the special occasion, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support (who coordinates meals in the theater) has created a special tailgating menu to include pizzas, cheese sticks, buffalo wings and more. In addition Wisconsin Guard unit commanders say they are creating their own parties by hosting cookouts and donning Packer gear.
Most 724th Engineer Battalion Soldiers are stationed in Balad and plan to watch the game at the base movie theater, in dining halls or at a recreation facility. They will also be waving "Title Town Towels" sent to them from McArthur Towels of Baraboo.
The Soldiers of the aviation battalion are stationed at multiple bases in Iraq and will view the big game via projectors in their tactical operations center or on televisions at local dining facilities.
"It is very exciting," said Capt. Shane Sipiorski, of Sheboygan, Wis. "We are all preparing for a battle with the Steelers. Sipiorski, is the commander of Company E, 1-147th Aviation and stationed at Camp Adder.
Packer fans are not the only ones deployed overseas however. Some Pittsburgh Steelers fans are serving right alongside Packer fans in the 724th Engineer Battalion.
"Within our Task Force, we have a unit from the Pennsylvania National Guard," said Waggoner. "Just the other day we received a pictorial note of a Steelers Cheese Shredder shredding a Packers Cheese-Head. We have our share of playful banter going on between the units."
The Steelers and Packers are also showing their support for deployed service members and have pre-recorded "shout-outs" from 32 players: 17 Packers and 15 Steelers, including quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger - to air throughout the game.
AFRTS has been delivering the game live to servicemembers, civilian employees and families serving overseas since the first big game was played on Jan. 15, 1967. They also re-air the game multiple times for those troops who cannot watch live due to missions or prefer to watch during "normal" hours.