Brew City Tankers handle Badger Militia

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jenna V. Lenski
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
The 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, and the 115th Fighter Wing, Madison, are two of three Air National Guard units in Wisconsin.  The KC-135R Stratotankers with the 128 ARW often fly training missions that involve aerial refueling with the Madison-based F-16 Fighting Falcons.  The Milwaukee and Madison air guard units come together to work on state projects, training, and missions.  Teamwork is the key to creating a successful Wisconsin Air National Guard; except when it comes to hockey.

Clad in red and sporting the Wisconsin state animal, the badger, a hockey player takes position at center ice.  He faces his opponent in white, with a graphic of the KC-135R Stratotanker refueling a German beer stein on his hockey jersey.  The offense lines up on the ice and the defensemen prepare to defend their goalie.  The referee checks to make sure each goalie is ready, and then drops the puck between the center players.  Ice shavings fly as the hockey players battle for possession of the puck and the first of three 12-mintue periods begins. 

The Brew City Tankers, a hockey team representing the 128th Air Refueling Wing, faced off against the Badger Militia, a hockey team representing the 115th Fighter Wing and Wisconsin Joint Force Headquarters, at the 2014 Armed Services Hockey Tournament at the Sobe Ice Arena in Las Vegas Nov. 6-10, 2014.

The Badger Militia scored an early goal, but by the end of the first period the Brew City Tankers were leading 3-1.  Many players from both teams play in local hockey leagues.  Although talent was apparent on each team, the Brew City Tankers handled the Badger Militia defeating them by 8-2.

The Brew City Tankers were among eight teams in their division.  After crushing three of those teams, they continued to the semi-finals where they beat a team from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.  The Brew City Tankers worked hard to make it to the division championship, but lost the title to the Misfits, a team comprised of independent service members in the tournament.

"People came together from all over the state between the two teams, so we definitely had a strong presence there," said Master Sgt. Kellen Kroening, a base training technician with the 128 ARW.

This was Kroening's first year representing the Brew City Tankers.  He plays in a local hockey league at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee and eagerly jumped at the chance to play for his Air National Guard unit at this international tournament.

"Everyone did well overall and Madison definitely put up a fight," he said. "Wisconsin represented themselves pretty well in this tournament."

The Brew City Tankers hockey team was comprised of nine Airmen with the 128 ARW: Senior Airman Ryan Berg, Maj. Michael Dirnberger, Tech. Sgt. Braden Duszynski, Airman 1st Class Matthew Gaffney, Master Sgt. Tony Karwacki, Master Sgt. Kellen Kroening, Master Sgt. Rick Russell, Capt. Luke Steffel, and Tech. Sgt. Bryan Storbeck.  Additional players for the Brew City Tankers included Cam Hartman, a Utah policeman, and Greg Brankey, a local civilian who filled one of the three authorized positions for civilians on a team.

The Armed Services Hockey Association was established in 2000 and their first tournament followed through in 2003. The event is held annually in Las Vegas and approves 30 teams to participate in 5 divisions based on skill level. The organization supports military, police and fire fighter hockey players and allows up to three civilians to participate per each team.  Team fees, travel and equipment are paid for with personal funds.  The tournament is an international event, as teams represent armed services throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The Armed Services Hockey Association uses this tournament to raise funds to help support the USO, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, known as TAPS, and Defending the Blue Line; all organizations that provide assistance to military members and their families.

This is the second year that the Brew City Tankers have participated in this tournament.  Master Sgt. Rick Russell, an aircrew flight equipment superintendent here, has served as team captain and organizer of the event for the 128 ARW.

"Throughout the whole tournament, there was a lot of effort," said Russell.  "This was the first year for a few of our players and they contributed a lot of skill to our team."

The Brew City Tankers anticipate playing next year in the 2015 Armed Services Hockey Tournament to be held again in Las Vegas.

"The participation and sportsmanship at the tournament was outstanding this year," said Russell. "Hopefully we continue to grow our team and support for this tournament."