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Culture - Nov 10, 2021

23-Year National Guard Career Ends on a High Note: A Bronze Star Award

Lydia Engelbreth and Emily Schutte | Waupaca Foundry

Jeff Henke, current Ductile Core Room Foreman, on an escort mission during his deplyment as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Jeff Henke’s second career is in the ductile iron core room at Waupaca Foundry in Tell City, Indiana. Prior to becoming the Core Room Supervisor, he spent 23 years in the U.S. Army National Guard, based out of Jasper, Indiana, where he held the title of Communications Chief with HHC 1st Battalion 152nd Infantry and Charlie Company 1st Battalion 152nd Infantry and later deployed with his unit for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003/2004.

Throughout his time in the service, Henke regularly stepped up to help his fellow soldiers. He is a humble man who takes his father figure role seriously and dedicates himself to the men and women he served alongside.

Jeff enlisted in the National Guard right out of high school in 1981, following in the footsteps of his uncle, who had served in Vietnam. As Communications Chief in an infantry unit, he took care of all radio systems for vehicles and soldiers. This is how he spent the majority of his career – until the military activated and deployed Jeff to Iraq on February 14th, 2003.

Jeff and his unit, attached to the 220th MP, completed security patrols, escort patrols, and radio system set-ups in Kuwait and Iraq – “a little bit of everything”, as Jeff explained.

During his 366-day deployment, Jeff’s dedication to duty lead to his Bronze Star Award. The Bronze Star is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. Jeff’s award reads: “For exceptionally meritorious performance of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His outstanding dedication to duty during ground combat in Iraq contributed to the overwhelming success of Victory Corps. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Victory Corps, and the United States Army.”

When asked why the Army chose to award him the Bronze Star, Jeff simply stated, “I was doing what was needed. I dedicated myself and volunteered to make sure the job got done. Taking care of people is something I always do.”

Caring for others is what lead Jeff to retire from the National Guard in 2004, after 23 years of service. He decided it was time to spend more time with his family. He worked in manufacturing and later applied to Waupaca Foundry upon the recommendation of a friend.

Jeff started as a core maker on the box in the gray core room and now is a Ductile Core Room Foreman. Jeff enjoys leading others, communicating clearly, dealing with complex situations, and mentoring others who are less experienced – just like his time in the National Guard. His extensive leadership experience is a great benefit to the foundry.

Waupaca Foundry is proud to employ many men and women who are veterans. Ten percent of our employees have served in uniform, and we thank you for your service.
#tellcity #veteran #veterans