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Promotion Brings National Guard Soldier Full-Circle

Army Lt. Col. Cory Mulhern, a liaison officer for the 101st Airborne Division, talks after his promotion ceremony at the division headquarters, Fort Campbell, Ky., Feb. 11, 2016. (U.S. Army/SFC Nathan Hoskins)
Army Lt. Col. Cory Mulhern, a liaison officer for the 101st Airborne Division, talks after his promotion ceremony at the division headquarters, Fort Campbell, Ky., Feb. 11, 2016. (U.S. Army/SFC Nathan Hoskins)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — An officer with the 101st Airborne Division was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the division's headquarters Feb. 11, bringing the soldier full-circle in his career with the Wisconsin National Guard.

Army Lt. Col. Cory J. Mulhern, a liaison officer for the 101st as part of the division's Multi-Component Unit, was promoted by his daughter, Sierra, and his son, Audie, during a ceremony surrounded by historical mementos, statues and relics of the Screaming Eagles — a detail not lost on the River Falls, Wisconsin, native.

Among those items is a display of Civil War soldiers from the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment wielding a shield with a bald eagle tethered to it, charging into battle. That's Old Abe leading the charge, the division's mascot whose resemblance is the centerpiece of the 101st's unit patch. This is significant to Mulhern because, as a Wisconsin guardsman, his career began with Old Abe.

Being part of the MCU — a pilot program in which Guard and active duty soldiers train and deploy together — provides Mulhern with the opportunity to serve with the unit that carries on the lineage of his first unit, and that matters to him.

A Source of Identity

"It matters because it's a source of identity for the first unit I ever belonged with, and it becomes — after 23 years — a source of my identity too," Mulhern said. "So to come here to the 101st, where they've now taken over that lineage, and they bear the flag, [is] a great honor."

Army Col. David L. Dellinger, the division's chief of staff, attended the ceremony and stressed the importance of this promotion for the 101st and its relationship with the Wisconsin National Guard, as it points to the strong bonds created between the two units.

Dellinger highlighted the difficulty in discerning between a guardsman and an active duty 101st soldier, because everyone works equally well. Everyone is "completely and utterly aligned," he said.

Mulhern said he takes great pride in being promoted by the 101st, but that he understands it comes with great responsibility.

"It means a lot, especially me being National Guard being promoted by the 101st," he said. "But it does put the pressure on, because I'm living up to the expectations of the 101st. So it's not just my small little world, it's now a much greater scale for me personally. So I'm making sure I don't let down not only the 101st, but the Wisconsin National Guard back home."

During the ceremony, Army Col. Lee Ward, the detachment commander for the Wisconsin National Guard MCU soldiers, spoke highly of Mulhern, having had the chance to serve with him before.

Ward said he sees an even brighter future for Mulhern than what he's already accomplished, adding that he believes Mulhern is likely on track to one day taking command of an infantry battalion.

After his daughter pinned his rank on his chest and his son adorned him with his newly minted patrol cap, Mulhern was joined by his wife, Jennie, and it all sank in.

"I never expected that I would be part of the 101st, and still have that lineage back to a bird from the Civil War," he said.

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