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News | Oct. 26, 2023

Wisconsin Military Academy inducts two into its Hall of Fame

By Vaughn R. Larson 426th Regional Training Institute (RTI)

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — The man who helped launch a national model for resiliency training in the military and the woman often referred to as “Ms. WMA” were inducted into the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 426th Regional Training Institute (RTI) Hall of Fame Oct. 14.

Retired Col. Andrew Ratzlaff spent five years of his 32-year military career with the 426th RTI. During that time he was designated the officer in charge of the Master Resilience Training program, and continued to grow that program when he took command of the RTI’s second battalion. Meanwhile, other classes offered through that battalion — combat medic and motor transport operator training — received the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Center of Excellence certification.

“I always liked working at the 426th,” Ratzlaff said. “In my opinion, it is the hidden gem in the Wisconsin National Guard. All units in the state need to consider sending their best Soldiers to the regiment for a period of time to teach others and share their knowledge with students that attend the courses at the Wisconsin Military Academy (WMA).”

The vision for the Master Resilience Training course, at first, was just to launch the program.

“Once it went live, we could all see the potential it had for helping everyone that worked in the program, but more importantly what it could do to help Soldiers,” Ratzlaff said. “I personally had a Soldier that attended the program tell me they would not have been around very much longer had they not attended MRT.”

Ratzlaff credited Sgt. 1st Class John Battista and Maj. Sylvia Lopez for being the driving force behind the Master Resiliency Training program, lobbying both the National Guard Bureau and state leadership for support and developing the budget and program outline.

“Once the momentum started, we knew it would be a success,” he said. “WMA had all the foundational requirements like a [dining facility], rooms for sleeping and large conference room capability. The biggest hurdle once funding was approved was to prove we could do what we said we could do.”

Ratzlaff said being inducted into the Wisconsin Military Academy Hall of Fame was a huge honor.

“I am only there because of the hard work of the Soldiers I worked with while I was there,” he said.

Benish, an operations program associate, said she greets every Soldier and civilian with a friendly smile as they enter the Wisconsin Military Academy.

“I want everyone to feel welcomed and try to make their stay as pleasant as possible as they are away from home and their families,” she said. “I go above and beyond to ensure that all customer requests are met in a timely manner.”

Benish said she was grateful to be nominated.

“I feel so privileged to be inducted into the WMA Hall of Fame with other honorable military men and women who have served our country,” she said.

She added that when she is not working the front desk, she can be found working in the distance learning lab or taking head count in the dining facility.

“I am always willing to help out when and wherever I am needed,” she said.