National Guard colonel
Merrill native Col. Paul Russell recently ended his military career right where it began, at the Merrill National Guard Armory. He invited family, friends and colleagues to a formal retirement ceremony at the Armory March 16.
Reflecting on his military career, Russell spoke of the three generations of his family that have served the military in wartime. His grandfathers both served in WW I. His father served in WWII, along with his uncle, a WWII fighter pilot, who was shot down on Veterans Day 1942 over the Philippines. His remains were never recovered.
“As a child, I dreamed on finding him and rescuing him,” Paul said.
Based on new information discovered just last year, the family now has a much better idea of the crash site location. Paul’s brother, Rob, found a box hidden in the wall of their grandparents’ Merrill home. The box contained new clues of what happened to their uncle. Paul and other family members now plan to travel to the Philippines in June in the hopes of finding the crash site and bringing his uncles remains home to Merrill.
“We’ll see if we can’t find him and bring him home and get him buried in the veterans’ cemetery where he belongs,” Paul said.
Russell assumed command of the 64th Troop Command in 2010. The 64th Troop Command consists of nearly 1,700 soldiers belonging to three battalions and 18 units, to include aviation, sustainment and support, personnel, Army band, transportation, maintenance, public affairs, rear area operations command and medical units. Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, described the 64th Troop Command as “the most diverse brigade” in the state.
Russell enlisted into the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1982 and was a M60 tank driver and mechanic with Company A, 1st Battalion, 632nd Armor. Russell received his commission in 1985 through the Reserve Officer Training Course at Ripon College and transferred to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry where he served as weapons platoon leader, executive officer and company commander.
Russell deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 where he served with the Combined Joint 7 Division as chief of training for the Afghanistan National Police. Upon his return he resumed his position as the Counterdrug Program Manager and also served on the Joint Staff before assuming command of the 64th Troop Command.
Russell is a graduate of Merrill High School, Merrill, and holds a bachelor of science in Education from UW-Oshkosh, an MBA from Tourou University International and a Master of Science in National Security Strategy and Policy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
He is currently the general manager of a corporation in Verona, WI, where he sees the value in employing veterans and active members of the Guard and Reserve.
“There is a big issue of veteran unemployment, and I’m going to do my part,” he said.
Russell is a lifetime member of the VFW in Madison and is getting more involved in the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program.