Sussex Man's Military Legacy to be Honored in Madison
Retired Col. Timothy Pfrang will enter the Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor on May 5 in Madison, and he recounts his journey and weighs in on today's military.
While Timothy Pfrang was earning his education degree at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he most certainly did not envision what type of teaching he would actually perform for most of his career.
It wouldn’t take place in a public school classroom. It would happen in the military.
“I started out as an enlisted man when I graduated from college in 1971,” said the retired colonel and Sussex resident. “I joined the U.S. Army Reserve. Teaching jobs were pretty tough like they are today, so I worked some other jobs.”
It was the beginning of a lifelong military career in which he earned the Legion of Merit and two Meritorious Service Medals. On May 5, Pfrang will join four other outstanding soldiers in Madison for induction into the prestigious Wisconsin Army National Guard Hall of Honor. They will join only 46 other inductees.
“I was in a little bit of shock,” said Pfrang about being notified of his honor. “I worked in full time support with the National Guard and am a former federal civil servant. I was honored to get the acknowledgement and the recognition, but I just basically did my job.”
Pfrang enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1974 and received his commission in 1977. After graduating Infantry Officer Basic Course in 1978, he was assigned as a platoon leader. He held a variety of staff and command assignments at the battalion and brigade level until assuming command of the 132nd Support Battalion in July 1996.
"I was honored to get the acknowledgement and the recognition, but I just basically did my job.”
In October 1998, Pfrang was assigned as the Wisconsin Army National Guard mobilization readiness officer, the operations and training officer in late 2000 and the director of plans and operations in 2002. He was promoted to colonel in October 2002 before retiring in September 2005.
Through it all, impacting his soldiers in a positive way gave Pfrang the most satisfaction.
“The most enjoyable part of it all was the opportunity to meet with people,” said Pfrang. “Certainly, when you are commanding a company you are commanding a battalion. You have that face-to-face contact with the soldiers when you move to the state headquarters.
“I guess the personal contacts were the most appreciated part of it from my perspective. Over the 34 years of my career, I spent quite a bit of time teaching soldiers from the ground up. At the end of my career, I was basically supporting their training and making sure that it was funded and things like that.”
"I give a lot of credit to my wife because she did a lot of the heavy lifting when our kids were younger.”
And the most challenging part? Dealing the toll his military career placed on his wife, Patty, and their two children.
“My two kids (daughter, Michelle and son, Matt) went to Hamilton High School,” said Pfrang. “Towards the end of my career as they grew up, I was able to spend more time with them than I was able to in their formative years. I give a lot of credit to my wife because she did a lot of the heavy lifting when our kids were younger.”
As he reminisces about his own military experiences, Pfrang also has thoughts about today’s military and the public understanding of how it works. He makes it clear that his views are a personal statement, not one in any official capacity.
“Although I support the concept of the volunteer military, I think there’s been a general lack of understanding of what the commitment is in the service. During my career span, I was mainly concerned with a period when the Reserve components were viewed as a strategic reserve in case of World War III. The Guard and the Reserves today have really moved to a point where we more refer to them as an operational reserve.
“Although I support the concept of the volunteer military, I think there’s been a general lack of understanding of what the commitment is in the service."
“Quite frankly, what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq couldn’t have been conducted without the Reserve component. There needs to be recognition that they’re a full player in the national defense, but that needs to be carefully managed. If the dwell time for soldiers between deployments is cut too short, that will impact employers, families and will create issues. There needs to be a balance struck there.”
He also believes future budget cutbacks will only increase the importance of the Reserves.
“When a nation needs a working military force I think the only way that it can be achieved is to lean more heavily on the Reserve component,” said Pfrang. “That may be one of the efficiencies if we’re going to do budget reductions. Maybe it’s recognition that the Reserve components have more of a place and the active force can be drawn down. But that also imposes some expectations on the Reserve components that they are able and committed to do more on a regular basis.”