Military & Veterans News
Illinois National Guard Recruits, Families Prepare for Military PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Spc John Dorsey and Sgt. Charlie Helmholt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Friday, 23 December 2011 16:16

CHICAGO, IL (12/21/2011)(readMedia)-- On the morning of Dec. 3, the booming voices of drill sergeants were heard throughout the Illinois National Guard's Kedzie armory in Chicago.

Recruits stood at attention while cadre of Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruiting Retention Command (RRC) conducted a simulated day of Army basic training.

With their families in attendance, recruits took part in the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) workshops. The program is sponsored by the Family Support Brigade, a not-for-profit organization partnered with RSP to provide family support, and is designed to give both new recruits and their families an in depth look at the life of a Soldier in basic training.

"We are here to prepare the recruits physically, mentally and emotionally for the military," said 1st Sgt. Aaron Ferrer of Highland Park, the senior enlisted adviser for Company B.

The day consisted of four main events that included combatives, weapons familiarization, team building exercises and military operations in an urbanized terrain training.

These events instill discipline and confidence in the recruits. For example, combatives provides them a better working knowledge of self defense they can use in future operations, said Staff Sgt. Justin M. Gullion of Northbrook, the level-one combatives instructor for Company B.

Pvt. Katharine Linhart of Brookfield, with Company B, enlisted her junior year of high school. She recently completed Basic Combat Training and will attend Advance Individual Training to become a combat medic after she completes high school.

Linhart said the RSP training prepared her for basic training and helped her maintain that discipline.

"It's been very active and we do a lot of hands-on training," said Linhart.

The program exposes enlistees to what they may experience in basic training and gets them accustomed to the Army's core values, other Soldiers and noncommissioned officers.

"It definitely makes me feel like I chose to do the right thing with my life," said Linhart.

The program was designed not only to show recruits and their families the military lifestyle, but also as a tool to keep recruiting numbers high and attrition rate low.

By giving recruits a "sneak peak" at what to expect in basic training helps them make an educated decision on whether or not the military is the correct career path for them.

The state's program has shown increasingly effective results, said Ferrer. While the National Guard Bureau standard is 83 percent of Soldiers to ship to basic training, the Illinois National Guard has exceeded this.

"Our numbers in the state of Illinois for Fiscal Year 2011 recruit ship rate was 91 percent," said Ferrer. "This clearly shows that programs like RSP are working to make the process of recruitment and retention more efficient."

"Preparing and ensuring these recruits and their families a smooth transition into the military arena is our goal and we are here to do just that," said Ferrer.

Photo 1: Photo by Sgt. Charlie Helmholt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment / Staff Sgt. Justin M. Gullion of Northbrook, the level-one combatives instructor for Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command, displays a dominant mounting technique to family members during a self defense workshop as a part of the recruit sustainment program Dec. 3 at the Illinois National Guard Kedzie armory Chicago.

Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Jason Dorsey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. Francisco Santiago of Chicago, of Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruit Retention Command, explains the fundamentals of weapons handling during a class on urban warfare training as part of a recruit sustainment program workshop Dec. 3 at the Illinois National Guard Kedzie armory in Chicago.

For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Improve Quality of Life for Illinois Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 23 December 2011 15:50

New Laws Improve Access to Jobs, Health Insurance

CHICAGO – December 19, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will improve the quality of life for Illinois’ Veterans. Senate Bill 1587, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), and Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and Rep. Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee), make it easier for Veterans to gain access to employment and health care.

“The men and women who have courageously defended our democracy overseas should not return home only to fight for necessities like jobs and health insurance,” said Governor Quinn. “We owe it to our Veterans to make their transition to civilian life as seamless as possible.”

Senate Bill 1587 makes it easier for Veterans to become members of the Illinois State Police (ISP). Under the new law, education requirements will be waived for individuals who have been honorably discharged with a campaign medal after serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. On average, a servicemember serves three to four years before being discharged, and that experience makes Veterans particularly valuable assets to the ISP.

"Having been a Veteran who returned home and found limited job opportunities, I applaud the efforts of Governor Quinn and the state legislators to improve the quality of life for soldiers seeking to further their careers to serve and protect,” said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. “This law will give Veterans every opportunity to apply and test within our department, and will significantly increase the pool of qualified, experienced candidates representing the Illinois State Police.”

Governor Quinn also signed Senate Bill 40, which extends the Veterans’ Care program. The program provides Veterans with comprehensive health care coverage for $40 or $70 per month (depending on income). The program had been set to expire on Jan. 1.

“Employment and the availability affordable of healthcare are among the most critical needs of the Illinois veteran community,” said Erica Borggren, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “These measures will have an immediate, direct impact for Illinois’ past and present heroes in uniform.”

The law also helps members of the Illinois National Guard receive compensation more quickly when responding to in-state natural disasters. Under the law, the Illinois National Guard State Active Duty Fund will be created to more efficiently reimburse Guard members called to active duty in the event of state disasters.

“Our Soldiers and Airmen always stand ready for any mission, whether here at home or overseas,” said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, Illinois National Guard Adjutant General. “As responders, this bill will help the Illinois National Guard's immediate response to emergencies. It will allow us to move forward during the mission knowing our soldiers, airmen and suppliers will receive prompt payment during a crisis and won't have to worry about paying their families bills.”

For more information about these and other programs for Veterans, visit www.operationhomefront.org or call the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs at (217) 782-6641 or (312) 814-2460.

 

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COMMENTARY -- Saluting Service and Sacrifice PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Friday, 23 December 2011 14:43

Saluting Service and Sacrifice

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Iowans will welcome friends and family home for the holidays this month to celebrate the joys of the season together.  Kids home from college and relatives from far and near will gather under one roof to enjoy each other’s company.

For U.S. military families, the return of 45,000 troops from Iraq arguably wins the best homecoming present of the season.  Nearly nine years after the war started in March 2003, American troops have fought to defend freedom and protect U.S. national security interests in and around Afghanistan and Iraq. The men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line in service to our country have earned a debt of gratitude from the American public.

The American public cannot afford to become complacent about the mission and contribution of the U.S. military.  The military serves in many cases as the world’s first and last line of defense for freedom, liberty and democracy at home and abroad.  Ultimately, it is the courageous members of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve on the front lines to protect our American way of life here at home.

Iowa has a long-held tradition of honoring members of the Armed Forces and the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard and Reserves.  Local communities and veterans’ service organizations for generations have organized celebrations for hometown heroes deploying to and returning from military service, as well as memorials for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

In Washington, I work to square the needs of a strong U.S. military and the sacrifices of the taxpaying public.  Recently, I’ve worked to raise awareness and increase federal help for our members of the Armed Forces who suffer from service-related mental health conditions and injuries.  An increasing number of veterans return from the battlefield with invisible wounds.  In 2007, I worked with Iowa lawmakers to pass the “Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act” in honor of an Iowa veteran who took his own life after returning home from active duty.

Seeking to help military veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, I worked to help secure passage this year of a federal tax incentive that would make it easier for small businesses to hire qualified military veterans.  In recognition of their skills and service to our country, I’ve also called upon federal agencies to hire qualified military veterans.  As a result, the IRS has hired thousands of vets in the last four years.

During this season of joy and celebration, let’s remember to salute the service and sacrifice made by America’s veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Thanks to their commitment to duty, honor and country, America continues to be the land of the free and home of the brave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

 
Rochester Airman saves fellow Airman's Life in Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Tuesday, 20 December 2011 14:56

SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/16/2011)(readMedia)-- When Senior Airman Evan Stevens first heard the explosion, he thought it was incoming fire and a possible ambush, so he took cover.

Stevens, who has been a member of the 183rd Fighter Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Springfield for the past four years, was 100 meters outside the gate of Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan conducting a presence patrol early one May morning.

Staff Sgt. Russell Logan, of the 164th Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Memphis, Tenn., stepped on an anti-personnel mine causing the explosion. The field had been established as cleared.

"I didn't realize he was alive until I heard him scream," said Stevens.

Stevens was the team's lead combat life saver and with his alternate, Senior Airman Yanick Koenig, of the 143rd Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Quonset Point, R.I., together administered first aid to Logan.

"We saw that his left leg had been amputated by the land mine and immediately started going through the individual first aid kit for tourniquets."

They applied a tourniquet to each leg, said Stevens. Logan also had wounds to his stomach and other areas.

"I saw black dirt and a white light," said Logan. "I didn't know I was hurt, but only felt pressure."

Stevens and Koenig applied the necessary bandages and were ready to move Logan's stretcher when a second mine exploded. Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell, a dog handler from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, had stepped on another land mine and lost his foot due to the explosion.

"We were a little confused and slowly began to figure out that we were standing in a mine field," said Stevens.

With only one stretcher, a couple team members, including Staff Sgt. Christopher Mazrim of the 183rd Security Forces Squadron, moved Seekell as the team walked a straight line back out the way they had entered, said Stevens.

"In those situations, seconds count and if you practice with your medical supplies and know where everything is, the better off you will be," said Stevens. "That day we learned that placement and practice is beyond vital."

Logan was evacuated to Germany within a few days of the detonation and had nine surgeries. He was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Oct. 11 and is back to work at the 164th.

Stevens, of Rochester, returned from his deployment in early October with his 13-man security forces team and reunited with Logan at the Enlisted Leadership Symposium in Nashville Tenn., Nov. 1.

"I got to see him again in much better shape than the last time I saw him," said Stevens.

Logan said it was one of the worst situations, yet one of the best things that has happened to him.

"It showed me what life really means," said Logan, who has a 21-month-old daughter at home.

The two Airmen plan to stay in touch and remain tied through their experience overseas.

 
Governor Quinn Announces New Home Financing Package for Illinois Veterans and Military Families PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Monday, 19 December 2011 16:07

Welcome Home Heroes Offers Up to $10,000 Plus Federal Tax Credit to

Help Servicemembers and Veterans Purchase Their Own Home

CHICAGO – December 14, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to promote homeownership for Illinois Veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members. The financing package is available statewide, and provides a forgivable grant up to $10,000 toward the purchase of a new home, as well as an additional mortgage tax credit up to $20,000 over the life of the loan. Welcome Home Heroes will make homeownership even more affordable for thousands of military families and create more than 400 jobs throughout Illinois.

“The Welcome Home Heroes program honors and celebrates those who safeguard our freedom by providing them with an affordable path to homeownership,” Governor Quinn said. “Our servicemembers returning home from overseas deserve our help as they put down roots in their community and begin building a civilian life with their families.”

 

Welcome Home Heroes is open to all qualified Illinois Veterans. Active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members must be first-time buyers. The Welcome Home Heroes homebuyer financing package includes a forgivable $10,000 grant for down-payment and closing cost assistance, an affordable interest rate (4 percent as of today) for a secure 30-year fixed rate mortgage, and a mortgage credit certificate worth up to approximately $20,000 for the life of the loan.

“Welcome Home Heroes furthers Governor Quinn’s commitment to sustaining affordable homeownership opportunities available through the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA),” said IHDA Executive Director Mary Kenney. “IHDA has helped nearly 60,000 low- to moderate-income families buy a home, and now we can help even more families attain homeownership.”

Welcome Home Heroes is funded through $5 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funds and $5 million from the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In addition to creating homeownership opportunities, the Welcome Home Heroes financing package will stimulate statewide economic activity. The $10 million investment will generate an estimated:

  • 405 full-time jobs
  • $16.7 million from real estate-related industries
  • More than $5.3 million in economic activity for the state
  • Additional $10.6 million in other statewide spending

“Many National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Soldiers come back from deployment and face hard times,” said Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “Programs such as this homeownership initiative will go a long way toward helping these men and women achieve the American dream. They fought for it and they deserve it.”

“As Veterans transition to civilian life, the Welcome Home Heroes homebuyer package assists those who want to find a safe and affordable way to buy a home,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren.

 

Welcome Home Heroes program builds on IHDA’s existing affordable home loan program, SmartMove, also available through IHDA’s lenders. Income thresholds and purchase price limits apply. Administered by the IHDA, the package applies to 1-2 unit residential properties that are located in the State of Illinois and are purchased as a primary residence.

Interested Veterans, servicemembers and their families can contact a lender in their area to apply. The Welcome Home Heroes application is free. A list of lenders is available at www.ihda.org/homeowner/heroes.htm.

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