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32nd Brigade takes task in Iraq
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MONROE - A Wisconsin-based National Guard brigade recently took on a significant new role in the Iraq war.

The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team has taken responsibility of the International Zone in Baghdad, according to Lt. Col. Tim Donovan of the Wisconsin National Guard.

The 32nd Brigade is made up of about 3,500 Wisconsin National Guard troops. It includes the 1158th Transportation Unit, which has members from the Monroe area.

The command responsibility was transferred to Col. Steven Bensend and the headquarters of the 32nd Brigade from the 50th Brigade Combat Team from New Jersey, Donovan said in a statement Thursday.

Donovan said the area is "one of the most complex pieces of real estate in the world."

The transfer of responsibility took place at the former Ba'ath Party headquarters in the Green Zone.

Maj. Gen. Guy Swan, chief of staff for Multinational Force-Iraq, presided over the transfer ceremony.

The 32nd Brigade's job is to secure and administer the zone, Swan said.

Swan said the International Zone isn't a normal city.

"It is a global community with an enormously complex administrative, diplomatic and security arrangement, full of high-ranking civilian and military officials from the United States, Iraq and other countries," he said. "And doing it in a combat environment, under constant threat of attack, makes it exponentially even more difficult."

Bensend said he's confident the soldiers will be up to the task.

"I see confidence and mission-focused soldiers who are ready to do, with the spirit of Wisconsin, what they came to do," he said.

The Wisconsin soldiers will make a difference, he added.

The 32nd Brigade is assigned to missions throughout Iraq, including Baghdad and other areas north of the capital.

The 32nd Brigade is made up of units in 36 Wisconsin communities.

The 1158th was mobilized for stateside duty in March 2003 and was mobilized and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq from October 2004 to December 2005.

The unit trained for several months and completed a three-week training period at Fort McCoy in 2008. The units completed a three-week training program in Florida in January.

The unit was sent to Ft. Bliss, Texas, and then sent to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, before it was sent to Iraq earlier this month.

Times for the 32nd have been somber recently.

A member of the 32nd Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Naseman, 36, Racine, was killed in a non-combat related incident May 22, according to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. Naseman was deployed to Kuwait from November 2005 to November 2006.

In honor of Naseman, Brig. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar ordered flags at armories, air bases and other facilities lowered to half-staff beginning Tuesday until sunset on the day of Naseman's funeral, May 30.

He is survived by his wife, Peggy, and sons, Cole, 9, and Carter, 7.

Donovan said the unit is expected to complete its mission by January 2010.