Fort McCoy News October 25, 2013

New 426th commander seeks to build on unit's legacy

BY 1ST LT. JOE TROVATO
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs

A new commander took charge of the Wisconsin National Guard's 426th Regiment (Regional Training Institute (RTI)) during a September ceremony at the Wisconsin Military Academy (WMA) at Fort McCoy.

Photo for 426th article
Col. Gregory Hirsch receives the 426th Regiment colors from Brig. Gen.
Mark Anderson, assistant adjutant general for the Wisconsin National
Guard (Army), during a ceremony at the Wisconsin Military Academy.
Hirsch assumed command of the Wisconsin Army National Guard
unit from outgoing commander Col. Richard Borkowski, far left.

Photo by Capt. Megan Hartley

Col. Gregory Hirsch formally succeeded Col. Richard Borkowski at the ceremony and hopes to continue building on the 426th's already strong legacy.

The 426th Regiment, which operates the WMA at Fort McCoy, is the Wisconsin National Guard's educational institution, offering field artillery, medical and transportation courses as well as noncommissioned officer education system, officer and warrant officer candidate schools.

Hirsch, who comes from a field artillery background and watched as the 426th grew from humble beginnings 20 years ago, sees great opportunities ahead for the training institute.

"There was no surplus funding," he recalled of the RTI's early days. "There was no dedicated school equipment, instructors, simulators or training aids."

Now, he said, the 426th is the leading artillery school outside of Fort Sill, Okla., the home of the Army's field artillery branch.

The incoming commander credited the RTI's previous leadership, including Borkowski, for building such a strong reputation as well as helping him in his own development as an artillery officer.

"Those individuals' vision and efforts ensured that later, as I became a brigade staff officer and battalion commander, there was a high-quality training program in the state that provided training to my units' Soldiers," Hirsch said of the RTI's previous leaders.

"That training ensured our unit's readiness during the last decade of deployments."

Now, Hirsch said, as the Army looks to restructure in the face of shrinking budgets, the focus will be for the WMA to innovate and continue building on the sustained success of the past.

Specifically, the new commander said the WMA can offer a valuable training alternative for Wisconsin's Guardsmen as it becomes more difficult to send them to training at the Army's active-duty schools.

Borkowski is in the process of transitioning to retirement from the National Guard.