Military & Veterans News
Illinois Army National Guard commissions 18 new lieutenants PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 15:47

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/18/2014)(readMedia)-- The Illinois Army National Guard's 129th Regional Training Institute Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, commissioned 18 Soldiers as second lieutenants during the OCS graduation ceremony at Springfield High School, Aug. 17. To meet the commissioning requirements, an officer candidate must complete more than 658 hours of classroom and field instruction. Candidates are evaluated on leadership abilities along with academics. They must also complete many physical and mental tasks, such as road marches and tactical exercises. One traditional class is held one weekend a month for 16 months with two weeks of continuous annual training. The accelerated class is completed in 57 consecutive days out of state. The 129th has commissioned 2,310 officers from the program.

The five newly commissioned accelerated program officers are:

• 2nd Lt. Sonji Davis of Waukegan, Illinois, with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Reasudeen Katideen of Rockford, Illinois, with Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mattoon, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Michael McPeek of Springfield, Illinois, with Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mattoon, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Matthew Mullins of Normal, Illinois, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 33rd Military Police Battalion in Bloomington, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Jeremy Wenthe of Carterville, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Marion, Illinois

The 13 newly commissioned traditional program officers are:

• 2nd Lt. William Adkins of Nokomis, Illinois, with Detachment 1, Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Sullivan, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Martin Anderson of East Peoria, Illinois, with the 5th Civil Support Team in Bartonville, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Joseph Hahn of Deerfield, Illinois, with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Matthew Maddox of Troy, Illinois, with the 445th Chemical Company in Shiloh, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Carlos Ortiz of Princeville, Illinois, with the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Forward Support Company in Milan, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Brian Ramirez of Chicago, with Company B, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Elgin, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Sarah Roth of Chester, Illinois, with the 445th Chemical Company in Shiloh, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. David Smejkal of Wheaton, Illinois, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Kankakee, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Kevin Spears of Edwards, Illinois, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Andrew Trine of Sherman, Illinois, with the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Support Company in Milan, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Brandi Tyne of Urbana, Illinois, with Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mattoon, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Alfred Vidrio of Aurora, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Machesney Park, Illinois

• 2nd Lt. Juan Villa of Peoria, Illinois, with the 5th Civil Support Team in Bartonville, Illinois

Outstanding OCS graduates were awarded the following:

• 2nd Lt. Juan Villa received the Erickson Trophy after being named the class distinguished honor graduate for top overall cumulative performance in leadership, physical fitness and academics.

• 2nd Lt. Matthew Maddox received the Leadership Award for the highest overall leadership evaluation score over the entire OCS program.

• 2nd Lt. William Adkins received the Physical Fitness Award for the highest average score on the OCS Army Physical Fitness Test.

• 2nd Lt. Carlos Ortiz received the Academic Award for holding the highest academic average in the class.

Individual high-resolution photos of each Soldier are available, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office

 
Braley Delivered for Iowa Troops Who Were Denied Pay PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sam Lau   
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 13:44
Todd Prichard highlights Braley’s successful effort to take on Pentagon & ensure Iowa National Guard troops were given the pay they were promised

Des Moines, IA – A new 30 second television advertisement was launched by Braley for Iowa today, telling another story of Rep. Bruce Braley’s work delivering results to Iowans, in which he ensured members of the Iowa National Guard who served the longest continuous deployment in the Iraq conflict were given the pay they were promised.

The ad, titled “Receive,” features Iowa National Guard veteran and state Rep. Todd Prichard, resident of Charles City, who served in the Iowa National Guard’s 1-133rd infantry battalion. Members of the unit were deployed for 17 months in Iraq, and had their tour extended while serving abroad. According to the Quad City Times, the Department of Defense promised the soldiers up to $200 per day in additional pay because they served beyond their scheduled deployments. But years after their return home, they had not received the promised pay.

Prichard said, “Our unit was promised additional pay because our tour in Iraq was extended, but we waited and waited and the pay never came. Bruce Braley went to bat for us to make sure we got the pay we were promised. He fought for us and got results, and because of his efforts nearly 800 Iowa National Guard members got the pay we deserved.”

Waterloo resident and Iowa National Guard Sgt. Jesse McCunniff, also a member of the unit, said, “When you’re serving abroad, it’s good to know somebody has your back. Bruce Braley fought for two years to make sure every single Iowa National Guard member promised respite pay got the benefits they had earned. Bruce stood up to the Pentagon bureaucracy and delivered results for Iowa troops who had put their lives on the line.”

More than 22,000 National Guard members, including almost 800 Iowa National Guard members, ultimately didn’t receive proper compensation. Braley was “at the forefront of restoring the lost respite pay,” and worked for “two years to see that the Guard members get the respite leave benefits they earned on lengthy deployments.” Braley “has been leading efforts in the US House to fix this back pay problem,” introducing and passing legislation that enabled the Pentagon to live up to their commitments.

The ad is airing on broadcast and cable television statewide across Iowa, and can be viewed at the following link: http://youtu.be/1vFQAaRKkiY

 
After Additional Troops Sent to Iraq, Braley Voices Concerns to Defense Secretary PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Friday, 15 August 2014 09:07

Congressman: The United States should not engage in another open-ended conflict

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) is today asking Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to answer questions about the nature of America’s recent military reengagement in Iraq after it was announced that the Pentagon was sending an additional 130 military personnel to northern Iraq.

“America has made enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and our commitment to ensuring its security has justifiably ended,” Braley said. “While it’s appropriate to take steps to address the humanitarian crisis and protect America’s national security interests, I remain firmly opposed to another long, open-ended commitment that places our troops in harm’s way and am deeply concerned by the recent decision to redeploy troops in Iraq.”

In addition to outlining his concerns about involving America in another open-ended mission in Iraq, Braley asked Hagel to provide answers to a series of questions including the timetable for bringing home all American military personnel, the estimated cost of the current mission, and the Administration’s intention to seek Congressional authorization for the mission.

“I believe the current situation in Iraq is a challenging one. However I do not believe the United States should engage in another long-term conflict in Iraq,” Braley wrote.

A copy of Braley’s letter is available online HERE.

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Retiring commander finds inspiration in soldiers he commands PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:48

Maj. Nathan A. Westby Retires After 24 Years of Service

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Story by Sgt. 1st Class Rob Fafoglia, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

As his military career draws to a close, Maj. Nathan A. Westby, commander of the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Springfield, Ill., said his main career inspiration has been the Soldiers he worked with and for.

"I have a profound respect and love for the great Soldiers and leaders I've had the opportunity to work for over the years," said Westby. "The kind of leaders who sacrifice an immense portion of their personal and professional time to make sure that, at the end of the day, their Soldiers, their teammates, are taken care of."

Westby, originally from Edgerton, Wisconsin, finished his career as commander of the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based in Springfield, Illinois. He reflected on what has made him successful over the years, as well as any other officer hoping to take command.

"Overall, officers in the National Guard today need to demonstrate the ability to be adaptable to an ever-evolving mission-set and creative in a resource constrained training environment," said Westby, "as our defense force adapts to the changing environment."

According to many of the Soldiers Westby served with over the years, he practiced what he preached.

"He was able to stand back and take a holistic view," said Sgt. 1st Class Peter Feudo, platoon sergeant with C Troop, 2/106th Cavalry (RSTA), in Aurora, Illinois, and a Plainfield, Illinois, resident who deployed with Westby to Afghanistan in 2008. "He understood the mission in its entirety. He also took into account our personal safety. Because he knew his men and we trusted each other, we did what needed to be done to accomplish the mission."

Another secret of Westby's success is his willingness to listen to other's opinions and ideas, especially those of his NCO's, he said.

"As the commander of the MPAD, I think anyone that listens to and involves the officers and NCO's in the unit in planning and executing training will be successful," said Westby. "This unit has a lot of great leaders who have a lot of experience, and not just experience in public affairs or journalism. Many of the Soldiers in this unit have come from other career fields in the military and bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise."

His former Soldiers agreed this was a practice at which Westby excelled.

"He has a lot of maturity as an officer, said Master Sgt. Pedro Gaston, operations sergeant for the 766th Engineer Battalion in Decatur, Illinois, and resident of Schaumberg, Illinois. "He was an NCO first, and he takes NCO opinions very seriously.

Feudo echoed this sentiment.

"He was a Soldier's commander," he said. "He is smart and methodical. He would listen to opinions then make decisions.

Westby's care and concern for the Soldiers serving under him seems to be universal, regardless of the unit.

"(His Soldiers) had nothing but respect and admiration for the man," said Gaston. "He's a good person and treats everyone with respect, regardless of rank. That in itself is admirable."

Westby said this universal respect for those with whom he served, subordinate, peer or superior, was a huge driving force in his career.

"The only reason I've stayed in the (military) this long is because of my admiration for the Soldiers I've worked with and for," he said. "They are simply the best fabric of America. They are the selfless people who will knowingly put their lives on the line for others, whether it's their fellow soldier in the trenches with them, or a faceless nation an ocean away, safely going about their day."

Staff Sgt. Brian Allen, also with 2/106th Cavalry, said Maj. Westby's command philosophy was very simple.

"He lives the Army Values," said Allen, a resident of Downer's Grove, "but it's more than that. He genuinely cares about what he doing and his drive pushes him to be the best at whatever he is doing. Also, his loyalty to his Soldiers was key. He would do anything for his Soldiers. In combat, I've seen him do things you would not believe to protect his men."

This loyalty and respect for his Soldiers is something many of them will always remember.

"He was incredibly personal," said Feudo. "He knew his men and still does to this day. He took an individual approach to each Soldier. He knew their families and their histories. Those that were with him during the toughest times will always remember him as both a commander and a friend."

Westby is not sure what he will do with his retirement, but said the military has definitely benefitted his life and civilian career possibilities.

"It's given me an opportunity to develop leadership skills and made me a much better communicator, he said. "I've developed and honed skills that I've transferred into improving my civilian career and job position over the years. It's given me a tremendous education opportunity. I come from a family where I was the first person to attend college. I now have a master's degree from the University of Illinois."

Westby also said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family in Sussex, Wisconsin, where they now reside.

"I just look forward to being able to spend all of my weekends and summers raising my children, coaching them in sports, taking family vacations and so on," he said.

Whatever Westby does, he will be remembered long after leaving the National Guard.

"Every Soldier I know who served under Maj. Westby loved him," said Allen, "simple as that. We still have Soldiers talking about him to this day. He will be missed."

 
Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Support Veterans With Disabilities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 08:37

New Law Removes Unnecessary Hurdles for Veterans Who Rely On the Use of Accessible Parking Spots

VILLA PARK – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to ensure that veterans with disabilities can utilize accessible parking spaces across Illinois without facing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. The Governor was joined at today’s bill signing by Congresswoman and former Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Congresswoman Duckworth is a decorated Iraq War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart for serious injuries sustained during combat. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to honor and support the men and women who have served our nation.

“Our veterans with disabilities shouldn’t have to deal with unnecessary barriers to keep their parking privileges each year,” Governor Quinn said. “This law will help make daily life a little easier for those who have fought hard to protect our country. Illinois is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation and this new law will ensure we are doing everything we can for our brave men and women who have borne the battle.”

“I am proud that Illinois is the first state to pass legislation that will make it easier for veterans with permanent disabilities to renew their accessible parking placard each year,” U.S. Representative Duckworth said. “This bill is a great way to honor our returning veterans and all who have served.”

“All of us in the veteran community are grateful for Governor Quinn’s leadership in ensuring those who serve our country, and especially those whose service required great sacrifice, have all the support they need back here in Illinois,” Acting Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Rodrigo Garcia said.

Senate Bill 3255, sponsored by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora), exempts veterans with a permanent disability from the annual recertification requirement to retain their handicapped parking designation. Once a doctor has determined a veteran to have a permanent disability, the new law allows veterans to renew their placard or special license plate without submitting a doctor’s determination each year. The law is effective Jan. 1, 2015.

“It was a pleasure to work with my colleagues on behalf of our veterans who have given life and limb to pass Senate Bill 3255 and remove unnecessary roadblocks to the services they absolutely deserve,” Senator Cullerton said.

“I am honored to have passed Senate Bill 3255 which helps our veterans by alleviating an unnecessary burden to receiving services and shows our respect for the sacrifices they have made for our country,” Representative Kifowit said.

Governor Quinn has long been a leading advocate and supporter of Illinois veterans. His efforts include signing a law to create the Veterans Cash lottery ticket to be sold year round with 100 percent of proceeds supporting Illinois veterans. In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to support Illinois servicemembers seeking homeownership. Since that time more than 1,500 Illinois veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members have accessed more than $170 million to buy their homes.

The Governor also championed the Military Family Relief Fund, which has provided more than $15.4 million in support of 28,840 families of deployed servicemembers since its inception in 2003. Governor Quinn also signed a law to make employment and job training organizations eligible to receive grants through the Veterans Assistance Fund.

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