Military & Veterans News
Governor Quinn Welcomes Illinois National Guard Brigade Home from Kuwait PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dave Blanchette   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 12:28

Illinois’ 108th Sustainment Brigade Returns from Deployment

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today welcomed home more than 200 Illinois Army National Guard soldiers who served in Kuwait. The soldiers are all members of the 108th Sustainment Brigade, and were deployed overseas for approximately 10 months. Homecoming ceremonies for the brigade were held today in Bridgeview and Springfield.

“I’m proud to welcome home the heroes of the 108th Brigade and thank them for serving our country and protecting our freedoms,” Governor Quinn said. “It’s important that we take care of those who have borne that battle and this celebration is a small thank you to our state’s veterans and their families. While we could never repay them for their sacrifice, we thank each of our National Guardsmen for their service to our great nation. Welcome home.”

The 108th includes soldiers from throughout Illinois, with a large concentration from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The soldiers trained for a brief time at Fort Hood, Texas before deploying overseas. In preparation for the deployment, the unit participated in training exercises at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the Illinois National Guard's Marseilles Training Center.

The 108th Sustainment Brigade, led by Col. Drew Dukett of Roodhouse and Command Sgt. Maj. John Burns of Benld, deployed to Kuwait in January.  Most were headquartered at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, while several soldiers served in other locations throughout the region. The 108th provided mission command and logistical support operations for servicemembers and civilians in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, and assisted with humanitarian aid in Iraq.

The 108th Special Troops Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Ron A. Jeanblanc of Athens, was deployed as part of the brigade and provided all internal support and medical operations within the brigade. The battalion also oversaw more than $600 million in financial transactions and conducted more than 220 financial missions throughout the Middle East. They also established the first Army Post Office in Iraq since 2011 and coordinated the transport of more than seven million tons of cargo across 75,000 nautical miles.

Governor Quinn is committed to honoring and supporting the men and women who have served our nation, and supporting the mission of the Illinois National Guard. 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.

Illinois National Guard colonel retires after 28 years PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Spc. Ian Withrow 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 09:19

SPRINGFIELD, IL (10/23/2014)(readMedia)-- SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – After 28 years of service, Col. Alexander D. Lawson of Springfield, Illinois, will retire from the Illinois Army National Guard as the director of information management.

Lawson, a native of Hamilton, Illinois, said his decision to join the military was fueled by the desire to provide for his family.

"There were seven of us kids and only my mom to support us," said Lawson. "We were on welfare the majority of my life and I wanted something better for my family and me."

"He enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard as a forward observer and attended Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1986. He then enrolled into the Reserve Officer Training Corps and graduated with a degree in computer science and commissioned as an officer in May 1989."

Lawson first served with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan, Illinois, in 1989, and continued serving with various elements of the 123rd until he transitioned to Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) in Springfield, Illinois, in 2000. Lawson remained with JFHQ until his deployment to Afghanistan in 2008-2009 with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, returning to JFHQ in 2009 and staying through 2013, until his retirement as the director of information management Sept. 8, 2014.

The directorate of information management is responsible for all information technology within the Illinois Army National Guard. This includes network operations, telecommunications, cyber, service support, administrative support, tactical, plans and policies.

Lawson said he has seen many changes over his nearly three decades of service and he hopes to see continued excellence in the future, as well as the maintaining of old customs.

"In regards to information management, we have come a long way from floppy drives to state of the art systems," said Lawson. "Illinois remains a top 10 state in information technology and I hope my predecessor can continue this metric. From an artillery perspective, don't forget the old days. Artillery is both an art and science. I truly believe manual gunnery is a proven method for young Soldiers to visually see the battlefield."

Lawson said there are many aspects of being a Soldier he will miss.

"I will miss my friends and colleagues, their selfless service and dedication to duty and the uniform," said Lawson. "The National Guard is a family, my family and I will always treasure that."

Lawson said he plans to begin his retirement by taking off to enjoy life for a while with his wife, Susan, before potentially returning to work in the civilian information technology sector.

Lawson also has two brothers who have become officers in the military. His brother, Col. Chris Lawson serves with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Guard Bureau, and his brother John Lawson is a retired lieutenant colonel.

Illinois Soldier recognized for Sexual Assault Prevention Program work PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Staff Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:21

SPRINGFIELD, IL (10/22/2014)(readMedia)-- CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait– Sgt. 1st Class Melissa Hiller of McCullom Lake, Illinois, an Illinois Army National Guard Soldier with the 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago, was recognized for her work as the U.S. Army Central senior (USARCENT) Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) from May to September 2014.

"As the senior SARC, Hiller provided critical guidance and information related to the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) program to 18 brigade-level SARCs throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility," said Maj. Marvin Brown, USARCENT SHARP manager.

Hiller served as the USARCENT senior SARC from May to September 2014, while also serving as the 108th Sustainment Brigade SARC.

"She epitomizes the noncommissioned officer corps," said Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commanding general of USARCENT. "I've come to depend on her expertise and her candor, telling me as a commander what I need to know. This allows commanders throughout USARCENT to develop and strengthen the effectiveness of the SHARP program in their units and the organization as a whole."

Terry said the SHARP program continues to improve as Soldiers become better trained and educated on what support is available and how sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated within the military.

Hiller was one of the first unit victim advocates in the Illinois National Guard. She served in Illinois working with the Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield, Illinois, aiding Soldiers seeking assistance from the SHARP program. When she joined the 108th prior to the unit's deployment, she was assigned as the brigade's SARC. Two months after arriving in Kuwait she was selected to serve as USARCENT SARC, in addition to serving the brigade.

Hiller said the opportunity to serve as USARCENT SARC was both an honor and a privilege.

"I started as a unit victim advocate to help Soldiers in my unit. Now I'm in the position to help Soldiers throughout USARCENT," said Hiller. "Sexual assault and harassment prevention are a priority for Army leaders. It's our job as SARCs to provide assistance and care to victims and help them through a difficult recovery process."

While Hiller served as SARC, she worked with units across USARCENT to train and educate not only Soldiers, but leaders and command teams. While holding SHARP summits, she gave leaders insight on how to combat sexual assault and harassment at the unit level and the importance of their role as leaders to the SHARP program.

"When Soldiers and leaders understand what sexual assault and harassment are, they can help create an environment where they can identify and stop possible incidents," said Hiller. "Intervention and strong positive leadership lessen the chance of incidents."

Hiller added she has made a difference helping Soldiers by providing training and guidance to leaders to help future generations.

"She dramatically increased the effectiveness of the USARCENT SHARP Program through a strategic approach to providing victim support," said Brown. "Her expertise and guidance were critical in drafting and updating USARCENT SHARP policies and procedures."

Brown said Hiller is a dynamic and innovative trainer and conducted highly effective training sessions for units throughout Kuwait.

"Sgt. 1st Class Hiller's passion for helping victims and changing the culture of sexual assault and sexual harassment is second to none and she has certainly left the U.S. ARCENT SHARP Program better than it was when she arrived," said Brown.

Prior to deploying, Hiller served as the full-time victim advocate coordinator for the Illinois Army National Guard. Upon her return to Illinois, Hiller hopes to find employment that will allow her to engage her skills and experience to continue assisting victims and educating leaders to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

"Sexual harassment and assault of any nature is a crime and not in line with the Army values. It will not be tolerated," said Terry. "It is the dedication and tireless effort of Soldiers like Sgt. 1st Class Hiller who ensure the improvement of the SHARP program to prevent incidents and help the victims."

108th Sustainment Brigade encases colors, ends mission in Kuwait PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Staff Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs   
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 10:31

SPRINGFIELD, IL (10/17/2014)(readMedia)-- CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The 108th Sustainment Brigade, an Illinois Army National Guard unit out of Chicago, turned over its sustainment support mission to the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, following a transfer of authority ceremony, Oct. 14, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

The 108th Sust. Bde. served in Kuwait for nine months, providing logistical support to U.S. and coalition forces in the U.S Central Command's area of responsibility.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, deputy commanding general of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), said the 108th Sust. Bde. served with honor and distinction by managing sustainment and retrograde operations.

"When they recognized a problem - they addressed it," said Mitchell. "When they saw that something could be done better, they did it better. They improved sustainment and retrograde operations throughout [the region] with steadfast support, keeping them in the fight."

Mitchell thanked the Soldiers of the 108th Sust. Bde. for all they have done and will continue to do for the Army and the nation. Col. Drew Dukett, commander of 108th Sust. Bde. said, "The concept of sustainment is not always pretty or glamorous, but it is a necessity to the evolving military challenges we face today."

Since arriving last February, the 108th Sust. Bde. has been challenged numerous times with support requirements that stressed both its capabilities and experience level, said Dukett.

"Whether responding to the demands of difficult and quickly evolving contingency operations in Iraq, maintaining mission command over troops in seven different countries throughout the region, supporting sustainment operations or supporting the robust retrograde operations out of Afghanistan, the Soldiers of the 108th performed admirably."

As the 3rd Sust. Bde takes over operations, Dukett said he is confident the brigade is ready to support logistical operations in the region.

"As you now take on this mission I look forward to seeing your unit continue the legacy of successful sustainment operations here in Kuwait," said Dukett. "The theater is in good hands with you at the sustainment helm. Enjoy the varied challenges that this theater provides and continue the excellence of supporting the warfighter."

Mitchell said the 3rd Sust. Bde. has provided support for service members in combat theaters time and time again; and while Kuwait is not a combat zone, the sustainment mission is unique and ever changing.

"You are the Soldiers who provide the warfighter what they need to win and make our forces and our allies successful on the battlefield," said Mitchell.

Col. Anthony Coston, commander of the 3rd Sust. Bde., said that his Soldiers are ready to take on the mission.

"Each of our subordinate units wears a different patch, but we're all united for a single purpose-- to sustain the Soldiers," said Coston. "For this mission in Kuwait we support a total force of active duty, National Guard and Reserves and other forces from across the globe."

Governor Quinn Opens Hope Manor II, Expands Affordable Housing Options for Illinois’ Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 10:27

Campus-Style Community Designed to Serve Veterans with Families Now Open in Chicago

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced the opening of Hope Manor II, one of the first large-scale housing developments in the nation designed to address the needs of female veterans and veterans with families at risk of homelessness. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) provided approximately $1 million in funding to finance the development located at 60th and Halsted streets in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Today’s event is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to make Illinois the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.

“Hope Manor II is not only about housing, it is about helping our veterans get a job, keep a job and provide for their families,” Governor Quinn said. “We have a duty on the homefront to take care of our heroes and protect those who protected us especially when it comes to jobs, education and housing. For all they have sacrificed in the name of freedom, Hope Manor II will give our servicemembers the comforts and safety of home they deserve.”

Developed by the Volunteers of America of Illinois (VOA), Hope Manor II is designed for veterans and their children. It will be home to more than 100 Illinois heroes and family members who were previously homeless or at risk of homelessness. The development will be an important part of the state’s goal to help struggling veterans change and improve their lives over the long-term by promoting self-sufficiency, building new skills, creating strong support networks and integrating veterans more positively into community life.

Services at the campus include employment readiness classes, job training and coaching, computer training, peer support groups, recovery resources, individual and family counseling, mental health screening, emergency assistance for food and household items and case management support. Residents will also have access to the Volunteers of America of Illinois’ True North Project which aids veterans who are struggling, in crisis or at risk of serious instability in their lives.

“This is a great day for our veterans, Chicago businesses and for Illinois,” Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Acting Director Rodrigo Garcia said. “We know that employment and stability for families is critical in helping veterans and those at-risk bridge from the military to a thriving civilian life. Hope Manor II will be a great base for our veterans to find great jobs here in Illinois and help businesses thrive.”

The campus-style community features a mix of single-family town homes and apartments built around a park, all located on a three-acre site donated by the city of Chicago. In addition to state resources, the development also received a $1.9 million loan and a $3 million tax-increment financing grant from the city of Chicago. All 73 apartments will receive Project-Based Rental Assistance from the Chicago Housing Authority.

“We are excited to partner with the Volunteers of America of Illinois to provide the stability and support our veterans need to transition back into civilian life,” IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said. “Our goal is to provide a comprehensive response to the unique challenges of today’s veterans, delivering the tools they can use to change their lives over the long-term.”

Women veterans and those with dependent children are the fastest growing demographic in the veteran community, often facing significant challenges as they transition to civilian life. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that approximately six to eight percent of all homeless veterans are women and as many as 175 female veterans, most with children, are homeless in Chicago each night. After IHDA provided federal stimulus funds and federal tax credit financing for Hope Manor I to provide housing and services to single veterans, a community to serve families was the next appropriate step.

Since Governor Quinn took office, Illinois has made it a priority to address the need for affordable housing and supportive services. He is the first Governor in Illinois history to dedicate state capital dollars to supportive housing, creating approximately 2,150 community-based supportive housing units since 2009. IHDA has financed 860 units of affordable housing either reserved or specifically targeted to veterans in that same timeframe.


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