Military & Veterans News
Freedom Salute Ceremony for Specialized Springfield-Based Unit PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Friday, 03 February 2012 14:25

Feb. 4 Ceremony Planned at Camp Lincoln in Springfield for Unit Recently Returned from Afghanistan

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/01/2012)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Feb. 4 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony will be at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield at 10 a.m.

Soldiers of BEST (Bilateral Embedded Staff Team) A7 returned in October after being mobilized in January 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They joined the Polish Land Forces before arriving in Afghanistan and worked as a joint unit during the course of the mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

The team provided operational, intelligence, logistical, communications, engineering and planning support to the ninth rotation of Polish Forces to Afghanistan. The task force it supported was composed of almost 4,000 Polish and U.S. forces assisting more than 9,000 Afghan security forces in one of the largest provinces in eastern Afghanistan.

The team completed several ongoing construction projects designed to improve the safety and expand the reach of all security forces in the Ghazni Province.

The Soldiers also established development and transition programs for several of the less violent districts.

Most of the team participated in convoy and combat operations supporting Polish and Afghan Forces.

The Freedom Salute Campaign program is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American Flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice. The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are required to notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m. Feb. 3 or they will not be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.

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Illinois National Guard Soldiers Fight, Gain Confidence PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Thursday, 26 January 2012 16:25

Nation's Premier Combatives Training Prepares Soldiers for the Unexpected in Combat

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/26/2012)(readMedia)-- A group of spectators gathered staring intently, clenching their teeth, pumping their fists in the air, and yelling as they encircle two warriors standing toe to toe; knowing that it will soon be their turn to step inside the circle. Those gathered were cheering for their fellow Soldier to take down his/her attacker by successfully completing a clench and ending the barrage of punches.

A total of 22 Soldiers from Iowa and Illinois National Guard units came to the Illinois Military Academy (IMA) at Camp Lincoln in Springfield Jan. 23 to 27 to receive instruction in one of the premier combatives locations in the country. The goal is to become level one certified within the Modern Army Combatives Program.

"We were the first National Guard site to hold a level-three combatives program class outside of United States Army Combatives School (USACS) at Fort Benning, Ga.," said Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Luca of Carrollton with 935th Aviation Support Battalion in Chicago, working for the Modern Army Combatives Program. "No other National Guard unit has ever done that. I know not too many Regional Training Institutes have a combatives program."

The Illinois Army National Guard Modern Army Combatives Program is conducted at the IMA and can provide housing, food, and combatives training at one site. In addition to the first-class facilities, the instructors, which include Staff Sgt. Steven Owen of Moline, Staff Sgt. Nick Grant of Caseyville, Sgt. First Class Robert Fehrholz of Springfield, Staff Sgt. Jae Russell of Springfield, Staff Sgt. Josh Lipa of Mount Zion, Sgt. Bernard Dickneite of Mount Vernon and Luca. Many of these Soldiers are award winning and have won several combatives tournaments themselves.

The Modern Army Combatives Program is in response to the ever-changing environment that Soldiers have found themselves in while in combat.

"We have found through reports that Soldiers go into a room and if their weapon misfires they don't know what to do," said Luca. "Or sometimes they are doing detainee operations and the detainee tries to go after them and they are not real sure what to do."

Life on the battlefield changes, which means techniques used by our military must adapt.

"The old hand-to-hand that we used to learn is not conducive to what is going on in the battlefield," said Fehrholz, a recruiter in the Recruiting and Retention Command and combatives instructor. "We are trying to teach them how to keep someone controlled, detain them, and get a dominant body position on them so they can hold them until backup shows up."

This has become such an important initiative that the Army has made learning it mandatory.

"The Army demands that there will be a level-one certified Soldier in each platoon, one level- two certified Soldier in each company, one level-three certified s Soldier in each battalion, and one level-four certified Soldier in each brigade," said Luca. "It's a pyramid training structure that guarantees that Soldiers are getting trained on combatives."

With that structure in place the Army can validate that collective learning is taking place. This training ensures that each Soldier can handle themselves in the midst of combat; ultimately instilling confidence.

"One of the things this combatives program does is instill confidence in Soldier; especially those who have never been punched or done ground grappling," said Luca. "They have a sense of confidence when they come into those situations. They know that, in the instance where this might happen, they have these skills to rely on and are not just fighting blind."

"It did give me confidence," said Spc. Katie A. Kastel of Bourbonnais with Company E, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Joliet. "I had all these big instructors telling me even though I was little that I did a really good job. It makes me want to go back to my unit and teach others what I learned. I encourage other smaller people out there not to be afraid. I think it's something every Soldier needs to know."

Story by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Braley Statement on the Death of Master Sgt. Travis Riddick PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 23 January 2012 13:43

Waterloo, IA – Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after learning of the death of US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Travis Riddick of Centreville, Iowa, in Afghanistan:

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Riddick family.  I am grateful for Master Sgt. Riddick's service and commitment to our country.  He made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the country he loved.  I urge Iowans to keep the Riddick family in their thoughts during this difficult time."


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182nd Airlift Wing Members Return from Operation Enduring Freedom Mission PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Monday, 23 January 2012 13:05

PEORIA, IL (01/23/2012)(readMedia)-- Members of the Illinois Air National Guard's 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria are scheduled to return home Monday after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom since early November 2011. Approximately 90 members of the 182nd Airlift Wing were activated in early November and deployed with three C-130 aircraft to Afghanistan. Around 20 of the members will be returning Monday evening to the Airlift Wing. Most of the returning members are aircrew who have been flying C-130 missions within the Afghanistan Theater of Operations. Approximately 70 members and three C-130's still remain deployed and are scheduled to return in the spring.

The 182nd Airlift Wing flies the C-130 aircraft which is primarily used to transport cargo, personnel and aeromedical evacuees. Since Sept. 11, 2001 the 182nd Airlift Wing has deployed more than 1,500 members to support operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Many of the wing's members have deployed numerous times. The wing has flown more than 12,500 hours in direct support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and tactical air controllers have controlled over 15,000 close air support sorties, many in support of "Troops in Contact." Additionally, the wing houses various mission support units that have provided base operating support, supply chain logistics, combat air support control and combat communications while deployed. This deployment cycle is one of many in the wing's history of supporting Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

The members are expected to return at between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., Monday, January 23, to the 182nd Airlift Wing located in Peoria.

American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Mark Sides   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:39

Jan. 20 - 29: 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan to Deliver Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation Message National Vice
Commander Milton G. Heifner to join in visits to VA hospitals in Illinois

For Immediate Release BLOOMINGTON, Ill./EWORLDWIRE/Jan. 18, 2012 --- Among the issues to be spotlighted during the 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan through the state are veterans' healthcare and Medicare reimbursement, maintenance and operations of Arlington National Cemetery, and the women veterans' program.  This year's forum continues the theme of "Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation" and will focus on delivering key updates to military service personnel about issues that directly impact them, and to attract new members to the Legion's active base. In recent weeks, the American Legion Department of Illinois was joined by the Illinois State Senate with its endorsement of an initiative to create a centralized communications channel centered on veterans - Veterans Special Programs American National Network , also known as V-SPANN.  Community outreach efforts kick off Friday, Jan. 20, 2011, in Viola and will proceed through the state during a week-long state tour.

Statewide visits to V.A. clinics will feature National Vice Commander Milton G. Heifner, along with state and local leaders. Heifner was elected during the closing session of the 93nd National Convention in Milwaukee in September 2011; he has held many leadership positions at the post, department and national levels. A U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War era, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1992. Previous positions he has held include branch manager of Brenton State Bank in Woodward and agent for Erickson Insurance in Granger, Iowa.  A complete and comprehensive schedule is available at (  

Friday (Jan. 20)  Milan (309-787-4149)  Rock Falls (815-626-3862) North Chicago (847-336-4767)

Saturday (Jan. 21) Wooddale (630-238-1205)  DeKalb (815-756-4551)  Dwight (815-674-3107)

Sunday (Jan. 22)  Chicago (773-330-5219) FDR Post 923 (773-278-0093) Giles Post 87 (773-363-2920) Calumet City 330 (708-862-8665)

Jan. 23-26: State Veterans Homes Visits  Thursday (Jan. 26)  Fairfield (618-847-5161) Friday (Jan. 27)  Benton (618-438-0861) Newton (618-783-2622) Litchfield (217-324-6213) Saturday (Jan. 28)  Alton (618-462-2644)  Bluffs (217-584-1770)  Cuba (309-785-5456)  Sunday (Jan. 29)  Delevan (309-244-7591)  Farmer City (309-928-3055)  Hoopston (217-283-6312)  

Since its founding in 1919 and subsequent Congressional Charter, The American Legion organization has operated unlike any other, exerting a  compelling influence on national leaders on issues of global significance. Legion operations enhance the lives of military families struggling through wartime and economic sacrifices. Members serve the community by building homes for disabled veterans, raising money for scholarships, coaching baseball teams, adopting military units, fighting to protect and enhance veterans’ benefits, promoting wholesome youth activities and much more.

National Vice Commander Heifner stated, "This is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history, with so many in need - our veterans especially need our help, and we have a moral obligation to support them. I invite everyone to join us in our annual family membership caravan at a post near you."  

To learn more about how to get involved and support the activities of the American Legion, visit ( or (

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