December 11, 2013
By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard
A Wisconsin Soldier who commanded his unit into the history books has received a national award for outstanding leadership.
Capt. Matthew Mangerson, of Milwaukee, was presented with the Brig. Gen. William C. Bilo Award Saturday (Dec. 7) in Stevens Point, Wis. The award is presented each year to the Army's best enlisted and commissioned officer in the country amongst the field artillery community.
"It was a bit of a surprise to me - I didn't anticipate being nominated let alone receiving an award like that," Mangerson said. "I was really set up for success by getting a unique mission and having a great group of Soldiers to accomplish that mission with."
Mangerson commands Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery out of Plymouth, Wis. He led his unit of more than 75 Soldiers - and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) - to become the first HIMARS battery in the history of the National Guard to deploy to Afghanistan to conduct an artillery mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Although Mangerson is quick to credit the unit's success to his Soldiers, the unit first sergeant said it has to start from the top.
"His ability to work with all service members is unparalleled," said 1st Sgt. Steven Czekala. "He approaches everyone with the same professionalism and respect they deserve."
Mangerson, who has also deployed to Iraq twice, believes in taking care of his fellow service members and carries some advice he once received with him every day: "If you can go home at the end of the day and look at yourself in the mirror and honestly feel like you've done everything you can to take care of your Soldiers ... then you've done your job," he recalled.
He describes his leadership style as patient and simply striving to do what's right.
"To be able to feel like you're making a significant impact in people's lives, I think it's the most rewarding experience out there even it takes some time to see the results," Mangerson said.
Mangerson had only been in command of Bravo Battery for two months when news of the deployment hit - but that didn't stop his excitement level when he lobbied for his unit's chance to get the nod.
"I knew the historic nature of this mission and the battalion was actually determining which battery would be the one to deploy ... I put everything I could into selling our unit," Mangerson said. "When I found out we'd be the one to go I was very excited and I welcomed the challenge."
The Battery B Soldiers not only accepted the challenge and were successful at it - they set the standard for National Guard field artillery units going forward. Before the Bravo Battery Soldiers supported more than 400 missions and stood ready for fire support coverage, they had to write their own script on the mobilization process. Now, the third National Guard unit to deploy under the same mission is still using the script written by Wisconsin's field artillery Soldiers, Mangerson said.
"Any recognition that I'm getting as an individual ... is really a credit to the Soldiers that were in my unit, Mangerson stressed. "I just tried to do the right thing and do my job well. I wouldn't have been able to be successful if I didn't have the good group of Soldiers that I did."
Mangerson commissioned in 2004 through the ROTC program at Ripon College where he graduated with a bachelor's in mathematics education. He's been a traditional "M-Day" Soldier, serving one weekend each month, his entire career until recently being hired as the full-time battalion training officer for the 121st Field Artillery - a fitting assignment for someone who enjoys developing his troops.
"There's a lot of different leadership styles," Mangerson said. "I'm not particularly boisterous or aggressive in my leadership style. I tend to do a lot of listening.
"At the end of the day you know that you are responsible for whatever happens. You also know the work you've put in but realize that the average Soldier may not see it," he said. "Whether those Soldiers ever see it or not, it comes to fruition with the success of the mission."
Mangerson credited Czekala as being a great mentor and contributor to the mission. The feeling is mutual.
"On a personal level, I have found Capt. Mangerson excellent to work with," Czekala said. "He is very caring, selfless and the loyalty we have toward each other cannot be found anywhere else in the Army."