A salute for support: Soldier nominates firm for Patriot Award
JANESVILLE To say that Karl Hanson's plate was full would be a dramatic understatement.
On the same weekend in 2008 that he took command of a Wisconsin Army National Guard unit in Watertown, Hanson learned the unit would be deployed to Iraq.
In addition to preparing for the deployment, Hanson also had to cram extra credits into a law school schedule to graduate a semester early.
And then there was a three-month commitment he'd made to clerk at the Janesville law firm of Nowlan & Mouat, a 13-attorney regional law firm established in 1883.
There were plenty of workweeks when Hanson was scheduling Guard activities and plenty of Guard weekends when his legal texts were tucked in his rucksack.
But Hanson got it—and more—done.
He also managed to secure a commitment from Nowlan & Mouat for full-time work upon his return.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in December 2008, deployed in January 2009 and joined the firm in March 2010.
To thank the firm for its commitment, Hanson nominated Nowlan & Mouat for the Patriot Award, which recognizes employers who go above and beyond in their support of the National Guard and Reserve.
The firm will accept the award Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Defense.
"Not every employer does what they did for me," Hanson said, whose practice includes planning, elder law, probate, business and family law. "They showed incredible flexibility in my military training and clerking and then held a spot for me.
"Doing that is a great sacrifice for small companies that face so many other burdens."
Nowlan & Mouat isn't the first Janesville employer to receive the Patriot Award. Others include Simmons Bedding, the city of Janesville, the Rock County Sheriff Office and Blain's Farm & Fleet.
While in Iraq, Hanson said he was made to feel part of the team back in Janesville. He routinely received care packages, emails and other notes of support.
"It really made me feel like I was coming back to a job instead of just starting one," he said.
The Oregon native graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2000 and promptly deployed to Bosnia, where he was in charge of a small peacekeeping platoon.
"It was incredibly sad to see the aftermath of war, but we were able to help rebuild lives just because we were standing there," he said.
He returned to the United States and landed at Fort Stewart, Ga., where he spent most of 2001 training for higher intensity contacts. He transferred to Fort Knox, Ky., in 2002 and entered Western Kentucky University, where he earned a master's degree in public administration in 2004.
In early 2005, he went for the first time to Iraq, where he worked as a liaison officer to the Iraqi prime minister's situation room in Baghdad. He facilitated information exchange with the staffs of Iraq's first two prime ministers, prepared daily briefings to the Iraqi National Security Council and conducted policy research.
"I'd already applied for law school in Madison, and I was interacting a lot with military attorneys," he said. "I liked what I was doing, but I liked what they were doing a little more."
It was an interesting time in Iraq, Hanson said, with a parliament that was starting to make law.
"I got the impression that we were approaching things from the perspective of Western law, and I questioned whether it would be compatible," he said. "I still reflect on that. ... You can do something that makes sense legally, but is it in the best interest of a client?
"That's not always the same thing."
Upon his return to Wisconsin in 2006, Hanson entered law school but wasn't ready to give up on the military.
He joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard. As a member of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, he took command of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry in Watertown in late 2007.
On his second tour of Iraq, Hanson led 150 soldiers in securing and defending more than 5,000 people and a strategic installation. For his service, he received numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
"We were highly impressed with Karl's background and subsequent experiences," said Dave Moore, Nowlan & Mouat's managing partner. "Karl exhibited a level of maturity that is highly unusual for young lawyers coming out of law school.
"Most important, we observed his outstanding skills in legal analysis, as well as his interrelationship with our staff and attorneys, and concluded that he was an excellent match for our firm."