Military & Veterans News
108th Sustainment Brigade Recognizes Soldiers, Civilians at All Saints Ball PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office   
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 08:18

LOMBARD, IL (04/01/2013)(readMedia)-- Twenty-one Soldiers were awarded Saint Orders, six Soldiers and two civilians were awarded individual awards and one Soldier was promoted during the 108th Sustainment Brigade's All Saints Recognition Ceremony and Ball at the Westin Lombard in Lombard March 23.

"The All Saints Ball recognizes the hard work and dedication of outstanding Soldiers and families of the 108th," said Col. Drew Dukett of Roodhouse, the Commander of the 108th. "This event brings us to together to honor those who make the 108th Sustainment Brigade so successful."

Within the military there are individual awards for personal achievements, for units there are campaign awards and finally there are professional awards known as regimental awards.

"The United States Army created regiment (awards) to build esprit de corps, maintain customs and traditions and increase combat effectiveness," said Lt. Col. Tracy Collins of Naperville, the deputy commanding officer for the 108th Sust. Bde. "These awards show the significant contribution the Soldiers have done for the specific regiment or association."

The Signal Corps Regimental Association established the Bronze Order of Mercury for individuals who stand above their peers in their contributions to the Signal Corps and the Signal Corps Regimental Association.

Inducted into the Bronze Order of Mercury were:

• 1st Sgt. Alberto Colon of Mundelein with the 433rd Signal Company in Crestwood

• Sgt. 1st Class Kyara Cowan of Calumet Park with the 433rd Signal Company in Crestwood

The Distinguished Order of St. Martin was awarded for significant contribution to the Quartermaster Corps and those who have embodied the spirit, dignity and sense of sacrifice and commitment emphasized by St. Martin.

Inducted into the Distinguished Order of St. Martin were:

• Lt. Col. Matthew Voyles of Woodstock with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Sgt. Maj. Steven Pearson of Chicago with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

The Honorable Order of St. Martin is awarded to those who demonstrate the highest standards of integrity and moral character and having displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence while serving in the Quartermaster Corps.

Inducted into the Honorable Order of St. Martin was:

• Capt. Edgardo Prats-Reyes of Chicago with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Angela Lantau of Quincy last assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Staff Sgt. Pedro Feliciano-Nieves of Montgomery with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Spc. Hector Loporte of Chicago with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

The Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe is awarded to those individuals who have served the United States Army Ordnance Corps, demonstrating integrity, moral character and professional competence over a sustained period. Those selfless contributions to the corps stand out in the eyes of their seniors, peers and subordinates.

• Maj. Richard Munyer of Springfield with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Springfield

• Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeffery Garrett of Rochester with the 3637th Maintenance Company in Springfield

• Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Thompson of Okawville with the 1344th Transportation Company in East St. Louis

• Sgt. 1st Class Sebastian Gawron of Addison with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Capt. Bernadette Bland of Farmington with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

Following her induction Bland was promoted to the rank of major.

The Ancient Order of St. Christopher was awarded to those with a career that embodied outstanding achievements and accomplishments in the spirit, dignity and sense of sacrifice and commitment epitomized by St. Christopher the patron saint of the Transportation Corps Regiment.

Inducted into the Ancient Order of St. Christopher were:

• Lt. Col. Tracy Collins of Naperville with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Master Sgt. Michael Gersh of Johnsburg with the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls

The Honorable Order of St. Christopher was awarded for demonstrating the highest standards of integrity and moral character and having displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence while serving in the Transportation Corps.

Inducted into the Honorable Order of St. Christopher were:

• Capt. Elaine Nussbaum of Bloomington with the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team A12 in Springfield

• Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Hacker of Rock Falls with the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls

• Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Heleine of Charleston with the 1544th Transportation Company in Paris

• Sgt. 1st Class Jose Sanchez of Romeoville with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside

• Staff Sgt. Donald Wort of Marseilles with the 1744th Transportation Company in Crestwood

• Staff Sgt. Shelly Johns of Chicago with the 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside

Awarded the Army Commendation Medal for their service and achievements in the 108th Sustainment Brigade and the Illinois National Guard were:

• Lt. Col. Stephen Cooper of Rockford, acting state command chaplain with Joint Forces Headquarters in Springfield

• Maj. James Dodd of Chicago with Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Capt. Michael Raschen of Edwardsville with 1844th Transportation Company in Quincy

• Spc. Andrew Adkins of Chicago Headquarters and Headquarters, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal were:

• Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Angela Lantau of Quincy last assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago

• Master Sgt. Raymond Butler of Waverly with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Springfield

Carol May was inducted into the Honorable Order of Elizabeth Armstrong, for Dedicated Support to the Illinois National Guard Family Program. She was selected by a committee of her peers to join the Sisterhood based on her diligent efforts to improve the quality of life for Guardsmen and their Families.

Shannon Dunn received The Military Medal of Merit for Exceptionally meritorious service as a family Readiness support assistant.

For additional information and photos of the Soldiers and civilians honored please contact the Illinois National Guard Office at 217-761-3569 or email ng.il.ilarng.list.staff-pao@mail.mil

 
Women's History Month: Illinois Guardsman recalls Women's Army Corps service PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Staff Sgt. Jaime Witt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Friday, 29 March 2013 13:08

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/29/2013)(readMedia)-- Each March, Women's History Month celebrations highlight the accomplishments of women everywhere. Women have served in the active component since World War II, however women were not allowed to enlist in the Army National Guard with no prior service until 1972. Sgt. 1st Class Wendy Bartlett of Bloomington, Ill., is one of the few remaining women who served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and still serves in the Illinois Army National Guard today. The WAC was a part of the active Army, though a separate Corps until 1978.

Bartlett, an Officer Candidate School instructor with the 3rd Battalion, 129th Regional Training Institute (RTI) in Springfield, enlisted in 1975 and attended basic training in 1976, followed by advanced individual training as a personnel actions specialist. She said this was one of the only jobs females were allowed to hold at that time.

"We were an all-female basic training unit," Bartlett said. "We learned how to wear our uniforms, put make-up on, do our hair, shoot our weapons, throw hand grenades, go through the tear gas chamber, do (physical training) in combat boots, uniform pants and t-shirts, learn self-defense, and other classes."

Bartlett recalled having a slight disadvantage during her initial training because of her size.

"I remember that in basic training I needed to carry a milk crate strapped to my backpack one time, so that I could use it to get in and out of a foxhole for grenade training," she said.

Despite this, Bartlett also remembered benefiting from a rare skill during her basic training.

"(Instructors) were asking if anyone could drive a stick-shift vehicle, which at that time most women did not," Bartlett said. "I was one of three in our whole battalion who could drive a stick shift. I ended up being the battalion driver, which gave me driver duty often, affording me some time off from the strenuous training."

After training, Bartlett served with the 123rd Infantry out of Bloomington, Ill. Following her initial enlistment, she transferred to the Army Reserve in Peoria, Ill., before taking a 14-year break in service.

"After about 14 years of being out, I reenlisted into the Army Reserve, as I wanted to be an instructor and they had a position open for me," said Bartlett, a middle school teacher with Tri-Valley Middle School in Downs, Ill. "I found that I liked the Guard unit in Springfield, the 129th RTI, so I transferred to that unit."

Bartlett said she had good memories and experiences from her time in the service.

"My life is full of great stories," Bartlett said. "A few years ago I was in charge of a unit of instructors sent to Poland to teach a Senior Leadership Course to the Polish Army. It was a course that I had a major part in writing. It was the last year that we went to teach it and it was an honor being the one in charge of it."

Women in the Illinois National Guard, like Bartlett, as well as the rest of the military, now have an opportunity to further broaden their experiences, following the recent ending of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for women in the military Jan. 24, 2013. Because of this, female servicemembers can now serve in occupations and units, which place them directly in combat roles.

"Women have always played a significant role in our wars," said Adriana Schroeder of Springfield, the Illinois National Guard command historian. "At least three women in Illinois units dressed and fought as men during the Civil War. In addition to those who donned the uniform, every woman who ever put a bandage on a Soldier, sent a care package or took care of things at home during deployment has played a role."

Bartlett said she found her career to be a rewarding experience and would tell any woman, or man, thinking of joining the military to go for it.

"My life has changed from my experiences," Bartlett said, "and I don't regret any moment of it."

 
Legion: Change VA claims process, not priorities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Marty Callaghan   
Thursday, 28 March 2013 15:09
The American Legion opposes any plan that would give some wartime veterans
priority over others in filing claims for VA benefits
WASHINGTON (March 27, 2013) -- The debate over the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog has been raging the past few weeks in the media, partially sparked by comments made by speakers at The American Legion’s Washington Conference last month.
On March 24, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki gave his first television interview in four years on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. That same day, the Legion executive director in Washington, Peter Gaytan, weighed in on the same show, which focused on the claims backlog.
Gaytan told CNN host Candy Crowley that the Legion is working with VA to fix the claims process, and that the crux of the problem is inconsistent performance of VA regional offices in adjudicating claims. Once the problems at those regional offices are addressed, the backlog should be reduced substantially, Gaytan said.
In 2010, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had about 509,000 claims pending with 39 percent in backlog (pending more than 125 days). Currently, VBA’s figures show about 900,000 claims pending with more than 70 percent in backlog.
James E. Koutz, the Legion’s national commander, said, “We don’t need a presidential commission to figure out how to solve the backlog. “Adding another layer of bureaucracy won’t get benefits to our veterans any faster.”
Koutz also challenged the idea of prioritizing claims applications on the basis of war era. “Not only does prioritization based on war era violate federal law, it imposes value judgments on the wartime service of veterans. Do we really want to make that kind of call? Is this something that would help to simplify the claims process? We need to honor the service of all veterans by giving them all fair and timely access to the benefits they are due under the law.”
On March 20, The American Legion submitted a statement for the record to Congress that included three specific recommendations for reducing the claims backlog:
  • Fix a broken work-credit system for VA employees, which currently gives the same credit for work, whether it is correct or incorrect.
  • Develop a system to aggregate common errors made in claims processing, and use the information to create a training plan for employees.
  • Hire more veterans to process claims, in order to increase understanding of the military among those who are interpreting claims files.
The American Legion has more than 2,500 accredited claims representatives nationwide who assist veterans in filing their VA disability claims. It also has more than a dozen full-time employees who help veterans appeal claims that have been denied by VA.
Veterans with Apple or Android smart phones can download The American Legion’s Claims Coach app at www.legion.org to find the nearest Legion service officer, who can assist with filing a VA claim.
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Lyme Disease Awareness: Check Yourself and Your Buddies for Ticks PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office   
Monday, 25 March 2013 12:13

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/22/2013)(readMedia)-- With spring weather around the corner and more outside training, Illinois Guardsmen should be aware of the dangers of tick bites, which can lead to Lyme disease.

Sgt. Megan Crist of Niantic, Ill. with Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mattoon knows these dangers all too well.

"I'm just a small town girl who no one knows," said Crist. "I however have a story that I would like the public to hear so that awareness and hopefully someday help and relief can be brought to all those that suffer from this awful, miserable and debilitating disease known as Lyme disease."

Last summer doctors told 26-year-old Crist she needed a pacemaker to live.

Devastated at this news, Crist was hopeful the chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness and fatigue was related to her pregnancy. During the exam, her cardiologist asked her if she ever experienced a tick bite. Confused how this related to her heart condition she said no, but the question stayed with her.

The next day Crist had her pacemaker implanted. Her cardiologist asked about tick bites again.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks that five years ago, back in fall of 2007, while I was in basic training, I had a big rash," she recalled. "The rash was on my left quad and kept expanding."

At basic training, Crist received antibiotics and treatment for a spider bite. Weeks later, she experienced dizzy spells, fatigue and occasional migraines. Yet after seeking further medical attention, doctors told her she was okay.

Crist now knows she was exhibiting symptoms of chronic Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the human immune system's response to infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi carried by deer ticks, said Maj. Jayson Coble of Springfield, the state safety and occupational health officer for the Illinois National Guard.

First recognized in the United States in the 1970s, Lyme disease is the leading vector-borne disease in the country with approximately 20,000 cases annually according the Centers for Disease Control, he said.

"Ninety percent of cases are in the summer and peak in June to July," said Coble.

Coble said there are three stages of Lyme disease; while the stages one and two are curable, the third and final stages are life-long. It is non-fatal, but can have a major negative effect on a person's overall wellbeing and lead to other complications.

Early symptoms include headaches, rashes, low-grade fever, chills and fatigue. Symptoms may fade after three to four weeks, but without treatment it will progress to stage two.

Coble said it is important for Soldiers in field environments to check themselves, their clothing and help fellow Soldiers check themselves for ticks. If a tick is found, it should be removed within 24 hours. Soldiers should report to a medic or medical facility and pay attention to symptoms.

"If you're unsure or concerned at all, because Lyme disease can present in some different ways, it is important to seek out medical attention," said Coble

Since Crist's diagnosis, she has changed nearly every aspect of her lifestyle, diet and exercise regimens to improve her health. She has also made it a priority to bring awareness to tick bites and dangers of Lyme Disease.

"I hate that I had no clue about Lyme disease until I was diagnosed and had a lot of weird, unexpected, and extreme symptoms," she said. "I would absolutely hate for anyone else to have to endure any of this mess, let alone the disease itself, so awareness is key."

In order to bring awareness to the disease and help with Crist's medical bills, there will be a benefit in her honor March 23 at the Lovington American Legion at 4 p.m. in Lovington, Ill.


 
Gov. Branstad orders flags at half-staff to honor Army Staff Sgt. Steve Blass PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Tim Albrecht   
Friday, 22 March 2013 14:17

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Branstad is ordering all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, to honor Army Staff Sgt. Steve Blass, 27, or Estherville, who died in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Monday, March 11.

Blass’ funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at the Estherville High School Gym. Brig. Gen. Derek Hill, Deputy Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, will be in attendance to represent the administration.

The governor’s directive applies to all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state. H.R. 692, signed in 2007, requires federal government agencies in the state to comply with the governor’s executive order that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of a member of the Armed Forces.

Flags will be at half-staff on the state Capitol building and on flag displays in the Capitol complex, and upon all public buildings, grounds, and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

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