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  • Military & Veterans News
    Lt. Governor Simon-backed military education reform legislation advances PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Military & Veterans News
    Written by Ted Nelson   
    Tuesday, 20 May 2014 08:44

    Measure to assist military students next returns to House for approval

    SPRINGFIELD – May 19, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon on Monday applauded the Illinois Senate for passing legislation crafted by her office to ease the transitions of military students moving in and out of Illinois schools. Sponsored by state Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson (D-East St. Louis), House Bill 3939 will align Illinois with national standards on the treatment of military students, many who transfer schools three times more often than their civilian peers. The legislation now returns to the Illinois House for final consideration.

    “This measure has the potential to ease the transition for military students and keep defense jobs in our state,”  said Simon, chairperson of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee. “By better aligning with national standards, we can assist thousands of military students in Illinois and show how much we value their families. I commend Sen. Bush and Rep. Jackson for their work to pass this legislation.”

    In 2010, Illinois joined the Interstate Compact for Military Children and adopted the state’s first-ever law recognizing the unique educational challenges of military students. In the 45 other Compact states, military students enter the same grade level at their new schools, retain previously earned credit and are offered opportunities for extracurricular activities. Illinois’ law does not currently offer the same assurances. The Simon-backed legislation brings Illinois into alignment with other Compact states, providing protections military students deserve while also preserving local control. They include:

    • Grade Level: Students must be allowed to continue their enrollment at grade level in the receiving state at the time of transition; subsequent evaluation to verify placement is allowed.

    • Course & Program Placement: Schools shall initially honor course and program placement for military students at the time of transition, including Advanced Placement and ESL, provided that the courses are offered and space is available; subsequent evaluation to verify placement is allowed.

    • Extracurricular Activities: Schools shall facilitate the opportunity for inclusion in sports and other activities to the extent that children are qualified and space is available as determined by the school principal.

     

    The state of Illinois is home to approximately 10,000 military students, most of whom have at least one parent on active duty at major installations in North Chicago, the Quad Cities and Metro East. They may transfer schools up to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation, a rate three times that of their civilian peers.

    Simon added that with potential federal defense spending reductions and potential base closures on the horizon, this measure positions our bases for expansions, not drastic cuts.

    During a series of listening posts hosted by the Simon-chaired Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC) held last year near Scott Air Force Base, Naval Station Great Lakes and the Rock Island Arsenal, families and military leadership consistently raised the issue of improving school transition.

    As chair of the IMBSEDC, Simon helps coordinate the state’s activities and communications relating to current and former military bases in Illinois.

    ###

     
    Illinois Guard Soldier Competes in Veteran Pageant PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Military & Veterans News
    Written by Spc. Ian Withrow, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Illinois Army National Guard   
    Friday, 16 May 2014 07:42

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The military often conjures images of combat boots, firearms and fatigues; hardly a scene of beauty. Yet for female veterans around the country, the Ms. Veteran America contest affords an opportunity to trade their uniforms for glamorous evening gowns. Now in its third year, the pageant features contestants who are all current or former military members.

    The Ms. Veteran America contest sets itself apart in a unique way. In addition to awarding tiaras and sashes, the contest's organizers also raise money and awareness for the Final Salute organization. Final Salute is a fund-raising initiative that helps homeless female veterans get access to safe and suitable housing.

    Staff Sgt. Katie Jo Williams, of Altamont, Illinois, a recruiter with the Illinois National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command, said she decided to compete when a friend brought the organization to her attention on Facebook.

    "My friend sent me the link and I thought it was a good cause," said Williams. "I got to thinking, when most people think of homeless vets they think of men, not women. I'm not a big feminist, but I think women get downplayed a lot."

    Williams said she didn't have very high hopes when she decided to compete.

    "I've never really been a girly-girl, I was always a tomboy," said Williams. "I had never even really tried something like this but I thought the worst they would say is 'no'. I deal with a lot of young women in high school and I feel like they don't have enough confidence. I want to show them how. Even if I don't win, I can be a cross-fit competitor and a pageant competitor. Just getting the word out there will help those homeless female veterans," said Williams

    Outside her military career Williams also practices competitive cross-fit. She placed 21st in her division at "The Event," a cross-fit competition at her gym in Bloomington, Illinois, in April.

    Williams said it was family legacy and personal drive that convinced her to join the military seven years ago.

    "My grandpa was in the Navy and then the Army. My father was in the Marine Corps. And now I am the only female in my family to be in the military," said Williams. "My grandpa told me stories when I was young about his time in Vietnam. Since I was ten I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to travel the world and have all those experiences."

    After enlisting as a motor transport operator, Williams deployed with the 634th Brigade Support Battalion, out of Mattoon, Illinois, to Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, from 2008 to 2009. It was in the 634th when she met Staff Sgt. John A. Howard of Champaign, Illinois

    Howard, who is now the full-time readiness noncommissioned officer for the 1544th Transportation Company Detachment in Danville, Illinois, has given Williams many pointers throughout her career and has always helped her through tough situations.

    Howard said he thinks Williams stands a solid chance of winning because of her work ethic and her reputation as a motivated Soldier.

    "I wouldn't bet against her if she stays true to herself and continues to do what she has been doing and doesn't deviate from what she knows is right," said Howard.

    Williams will compete not only for the title of Ms. Veteran America, but also for two additional awards. Williams elected to compete for the titles of "Social Butterfly," which requires the most "likes" on Facebook to win, and "Iron Princess," which is awarded to the competitor who best works fitness and healthy living into their lifestyle. Williams said she wants to compete for the Social Butterfly title because, as a recruiter, she likes to connect with people and make new friends.

    Williams said Iron Princess was also a natural choice given her involvement in cross-fit and healthy life style.

    So what is next for Williams? For now she is preparing for the regional competition in Arlington,Virgina, which will take place on June 8. Though that is right around the corner, Williams said she believes she is ready.

    "I'm not nervous about the experience, but maybe I am anxious," said Williams. "This is something I have never done before, so I do have some stomach butterflies, but it is excitement and nervousness all at the same time."

    Williams said she wants to wow the judges with her voice during the talent portion of the competition. She has chosen to sing "I see the Light" sung originally by Mandy Moore from Disney's 2010 animated musical "Tangled."

    "My sister tells me I sound like Mandy Moore," said Williams. "My sister and my friends told me I should do that one. It's a nice simple song just to show the judges what I can do."

    For now, Williams is keeping herself grounded but hopeful about the regionals contest in June.

    "If I do win, that would be awesome," said Williams. "I wouldn't know what to say. I would be ecstatic about being able to represent female veterans everywhere. I don't think there's another title that can compare."

     
    Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth Participates in Memorial Day Events PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Military & Veterans News
    Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
    Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:10
    SPRINGFIELD, IL (05/14/2014)(readMedia)-- WHO: • Illinois Army National Guard Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, Ill. WHAT: • Several Memorial Day ceremonies across Illinois WHEN/WHERE: • May 24, 12 p.m. - Grand Marshal of Chicago Memorial Day parade. The parade will start at 12 p.m. and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren. • May 25, 11 a.m. -Streamwood Memorial Day ceremony; Streamwood Veterans Memorial next to the village hall at 301 E. Irving Park Road in Streamwood, Ill. • May 26, 10:45 a.m. –Oak Ridge Cemetery at War Memorials, 1441 Monument in Springfield, Ill. • May 26, 2 p.m. -Camp Butler National Cemetery Memorial Day, 5063 Camp Butler Road in Springfield, Ill. • May 27, 9 a.m. -Athens High School, #1 Warrior Way in Athens, Ill. • May 27, 2 p.m. –Trinity Lutheran School, 11503 German Church Road, Burr Ridge, Ill. MORE: • 2014 marks the 10-year anniversary the aviation incident that injured Duckworth. She served in Iraq as an Assistant Operations Officer and flew combat missions as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. During a mission north of Baghdad on Nov. 12, 2004 her aircraft was ambushed and a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter she was co-piloting. She continued to attempt to pilot the aircraft until passing out from blood loss. As a result of the attack, Duckworth lost both her legs and partial use of one arm. She received many decorations for her actions, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge. • Duckworth spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As one of the highest-ranking patients, she became an advocate for her fellow Soldiers and testified before Congress about caring for veterans and wounded warriors. • She became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006. • In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. • Duckworth was elected to Congress in 2012. • Duckworth lives in Hoffman Estates with her husband Bryan, an Army major. Since her recovery, Duckworth has taken up scuba diving, surfing, skydiving and flies as a civilian pilot. She has also completed several marathons. • Enlisting in September 1991, Duckworth continues to serve with the Illinois Army National Guard. • Duckworth's husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, is a major in the Illinois Army National Guard where he has served since 1987. For additional information, please contact the Public Affairs office at 217-761-3569 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it -30-

     
    ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD, POLISH MILITARY, OTHERS PARTICIPATE IN EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE EXERCISE IN SPRINGFIELD PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Military & Veterans News
    Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
    Wednesday, 14 May 2014 09:25

    SPRINGFIELD, IL (05/13/2014)(readMedia)-- The Illinois National Guard, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and U.S Northern Command will hold a media availability during a week-long earthquake response exercise at the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield at 11:00 a.m. May 14. The media availability will coincide with a visit from the Illinois National Guard's State Partners from Poland.

    WHO:

    • Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Wing based in Springfield, Ill.

    • Illinois Army National Guard’s 65th Troop Command Brigade based in Springfield, Ill.

    • Illinois National Guard State Partnership Program Polish delegation

    WHAT:

    • Media availability highlighting the Illinois National Guard’s earthquake response training and its strong partnership with Poland.

    WHEN: Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 11:00AM Central Time (US & Canada)

    WHERE:183rd Fighter Wing
    1301 J. David Jones Pkwy
    Springfield, Illinois 62707

    NOTES:

    • The Illinois National Guard is conducting a week-long exercise to prepare its units for rapidly responding to a major earthquake along the New Madrid and Wabash faults in southern Illinois.

    • A delegation of Polish Army officers is visiting the Illinois National Guard to study the Guard’s domestic operations mission.

    • The Polish delegation will observe three days of exercises.

    • The delegation is part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, which partners U.S. states with European countries to support the Department of Defense security cooperation objectives.

    • Representatives from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and advisors from U.S. Northern Command are also participating in the exercise.

     
    Illinois National Guard servicemember raises children, servicemembers PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Military & Veterans News
    Written by Staff Sgt.Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs   
    Monday, 12 May 2014 08:34
    CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT (05/10/2014)(readMedia)-- Mother's Day in the United States is annually held on the second Sunday of May. It celebrates motherhood and it is a time when people show appreciation to mothers and mother figures. In today's military there are thousands of mothers who serve the U.S. at home and abroad. Many of these military moms have blended their leadership skills with maternal care used in their family and military family. Staff Sgt. Maria McEnroe-Prentiss, the noncommissioned officer in charge administration with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 108th Sustainment Brigade out of Chicago, has merged her troop care and leadership training as a NCO with her lessons learned as a mother of 11 children. She said her military service and experience has aided her as a mother and was the encouragement for her older children to also enlist. Deployed to Kuwait with the 108th Sust. Bde., Prentiss will spend this Mother's Day with the Soldiers she provides leadership and care for and be away from her seven children still at home.Prentiss enlisted into the Army Reserves in 1980 and later joined the Active Duty Army in 1982. While stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., she met Todd Prentiss, who was also stationed at Fort Campbell. The two married at the post chapel in 1983, two years later the couple had their first child, the start to the family they wanted. Shortly after their first child's birth Maria left the Army to raise their new family, while Todd continued to serve. "The military was a big part our life, but we both know we wanted to have a big family and I wanted to be a dedicated mother while Todd continued to serve," said Maria. The two moved to Germany when Todd was reassigned to his new duty station. In Germany the Prentiss family continued to grow as the couple now had four children. In 1989 Todd's military service had come to a close and the family moved to Maria's hometown of Peoria, Ill. Todd joined the Peoria Fire Department while Maria continued to care for the children at home. Even after her service Maria said what she learned through professional leadership training and experience was never forgotten. "When I attended (the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course) we learned a lot about troop care, leadership, compassion and all the things needed to provide the best for your Soldiers," said Maria. "Nearly every leadership trait or skill was something I put into practice with the children, especially as they grew up and our family grew." Todd and Maria often told their children about how they met while serving on Active Duty. On a few on their family trips the children were able to visit Fort Campbell and see the chapel where their parents were married. Maria said she believes this exposure to the military coupled with her and Todd's stories about military service influenced their children to also enlist into the military. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Prentiss a Peoria Native, with the 86th maintenance squadron was one of the first of their children to join the military enlisting into the Active Duty Air Force in 2006. Sean said the values his mother instilled in them help prepare him for military culture. "I feel that when it came time to go over customs and courtesies along with the proper mentality needed to be effective in the service, her parenting had already formed that foundation prior to going into the recruiters office," said Sean. As her children came closer to the age of 18, the military option was not low on the list for her children, said Maria. Army Sgt. Sonja Prentiss also a Peoria native, with the Active Army's 8th Military Information Support Battalion said her mother was a critical influence in her joining the military. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be who I am today," said Sonja. Sonja said her mother had always encouraged her to join the military when she was growing up to help her decide what she wanted to achieve in her life. "I joined in 2009, when I was 19 years old," said Sonja. "I had not gone to college, and couldn't figure out what I wanted to be. Being in the military has given me a life that I never could have had if I had stayed in my hometown." While Sonja credits her mother for enlisting, it was Sonja's visit to the recruiters office that lead to Maria re-enlistment into the Army. Maria said she wanted to accompany Sonja to a visit at the recruiters office, the recruiter mentioned the opportunities for prior service wanting to return into the military. Soon after Maria enlisted into the Illinois Army National Guard, and in the following months Sonja joined the Active Duty Army. As Maria shows pride in the service of her children, her children share the same pride in their mother. "I am extremely proud of my mom and her ability to push herself," said Sonja. "Not many people would take the steps that she has and rejoin the military so late in life, and with seven out of 11 children at home," said Prentiss. "My mother is a true inspiration to all of the people that she comes in contact with, and she most certainly has what it takes to be an outstanding NCO and take care of her Soldiers."

     
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