REND LAKE, ILLINOIS (02/10/2015)(readMedia)-- Maj. Gregory Settle of Chatham, Illinois, and Waltonville, Illinois, native, received the National Infantry Association's Order of Saint Maurice award Feb. 7 during the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regimental ball in Rend Lake, Illinois. Settle's assignment is the Illinois National Guard's International Affairs Officer (J5) in Springfield, Illinois.

Settle earned the award for his time with 2-130th, based in Marion, Illinois. During his 19 years with the battalion, his most recent position was battalion executive officer and Active Guard Reserve (AGR) officer in charge.

"Major Settle is a natural leader, aggressive in perseverance yet grounded in humility. His dedication and integrity are beyond reproach, and his guidance is frequently sought after by peers and subordinates," said his recommendation to the National Infantry Association by Maj. Casey Kline of Marion, Illinois, with 2-130th. "A fighting leader and veteran of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan...Major Settle has been decorated for valor and commended for dedication on numerous occasions."

Fellow recipients in the audience joined Settle during the award presentation. Those Soldiers were Col. Rodney Thacker of Chatham, Illinois, Director of Plans, Training and Operations for the Illinois Army National Guard; Col. Mark Jackson, of Frankfort, Illinois, Illinois National Guard Director of Homeland Security (J3); Col. Henry Dixon of Chicago, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Commander; and Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos of Santa Maria, California, senior military science instructor with Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

"It is a great honor to receive this prestigious award in the presence of other award recipients," Settle said. "These gentlemen are true leaders and examples of what an Infantryman is capable of. I am humbled to stand beside them."

According to the award citation, "the Order of St. Maurice Award recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the Infantry in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient's seniors, subordinates and peers. These individuals have also demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, an outstanding degree of professional competence, and have served the United States Army Infantry or the Infantry community with distinction."

WARSAW, POLAND (02/10/2015)(readMedia)-- Five Soldiers with the Illinois Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion in Springfield, Illinois travelled to Warsaw, Poland from 26 to 30 January for a workshop aimed at best practices between the partner nations at Poland's Armed Forces Operational Command.

Brig. Gen. Andrzej Tuz, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Armed Forces Operational Command, addressed the group on the opening day to share ideas and build upon the partnership between Poland and Illinois. The workshop focused on adapting Illinois' models for recruiting, retention, marketing, and attrition management to Poland's Armed Forces recruitment. In 2008, Poland ended mandatory conscription into its armed forces. Poland started its National Reserve Forces in 2010, and has experienced the challenges associated with recruiting.

"We see the same challenges here," said Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Donaldson, of Chatham, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Command Sergeant Major. "They understand where they are currently and where they want to go, but also understand that it will take time to get there."

Personnel from the Polish Armed Forces Operational Command gave a general overview of their force structure and function of not only the active component, but also the National Reserve Forces. Personnel discussed how Poland's Operational and General Commands operate as part of the Ministry of National Defense.

Aleksandra Szmitkowska and Grzegorz Romanski of the Ministry's Department of Education and Defense Promotion discussed recruiting ideas and campaigns and how they are seeking quality over quantity when it comes to recruits. Donaldson and Maj. Darren Horton, of Williamsville, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Enlisted Accessions Officer in Charge, followed by giving a presentation on retention, sponsorship programs in the Illinois National Guard, and the importance and effectiveness of proper retention counseling.

Sgt. Maj. Allen Morrison, of Rochester, Illinois, Enlisted Accessions Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, gave an overview of the Illinois National Guard's recruiting strategy and target audience. Lt. Col. Daniel Reichen, of Springfield, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Commander, said his Polish counterparts were receptive to the idea of leveraging high schools and centers of influence within that demographic to increase recruiting.

"We sell ourselves as the component of choice. Our partners were very interested in how we take a 'community first, nation always' approach to marketing the Guard," said Reichen.

Reichen said the U.S. military, the Illinois National Guard, and Poland all face the same challenges.

"We're always trying to do the same three things: man, train, and equip the force. Our partners in Poland have the same goals and are looking for the best practices to do the same," he said.

Reichen said the workshop was successful and a great partnership opportunity, but said future opportunities to work with the Polish National Reserve Forces should not be limited to recruiting practices.

"I think that the next step is not only talking the recruiting piece, but how we man and train personnel in the reserve component, involving the personnel and operations branches in a workshop may be incredibly useful to our partners," he said.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/05/2015)(readMedia)-- Story by Staff Sgt. Robert R. Adams, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office

Thirteen Army National Guard Soldiers received certificates of completion for their success during the Illinois Army National Guard's 129th Regional Training Institute Signal Support System Specialist (25U) Reclassification Course Feb. 4 at a ceremony held at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. Three of the 13 graduates were from the Illinois Army National Guard.

Three of the four spots for honor graduates were Illinois Guardsmen. These Soldiers were Sgt. First Class Anthony Flam of Chicago with the Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery Regiment in Chicago; Sgt. First Class Shawn Cannamore of Metropolis, Illinois with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Marion, Illinois; and Spc. Richard Crosby Sanders of Collinsville with the Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield, Illinois.

The Soldiers learned information technology vital skills during the two-phase course held over a four-week period, such as installing and troubleshooting communication systems.

Signal Support Systems Specialists are primarily responsible for working with battlefield signal support systems and terminal devices.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/21/2015)(readMedia)-- PEORIA, Ill. ? The Illinois Air National Guard (ANG) 566th Band of the Midwest will perform a free concert Jan. 28, at 8 p.m., at the Peoria Civic Center auditorium in Peoria, Illinois.

The band, conducted by Maj. Bryan Miller of Naperville, Illinois, will perform for the 2015 Illinois Music Education Association conference opening night as part of its community outreach mission.

The ANG Band Program trains and deploys professional Airmen musicians to foster patriotism in audiences within the U.S. and in forward-deployed locations. The band cultivates American cultural and military musical heritage.

"Audiences can expect a world-class show with exciting and dynamic music," said Miller.

More information about the ANG Band of the Midwest can be found at and on Facebook at ANG Band of the Midwest (566th AFB). More information about the ILMEA conference can be found at http://www.ilmeaorg/events/15imec.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/15/2015)(readMedia)-- PEORIA, Ill. ? Nine Sustainment Services Flight Airmen with the Illinois Air National Guard's 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Illinois, are scheduled to return home Jan. 17 after a seven-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

"We are very proud to welcome home our services personnel who deployed in support of our missions overseas," said Col. William P. Robertson of Peoria, Illinois. "Our services personnel are second to none. They provided top-notch support that exceeded expectations of the command overseas."

The Airmen are members of 182nd Force Support Squadron, a component of the 182nd Mission Support Group.

"I am very proud of each one of them as they continue to raise the bar each time they do the mission," said Robertson. "It's not easy to leave your civilian job and family to answer a call to duty. I am sure they are ready for a break and to get back to their families. My thanks to those families who sacrificed along with their deployed loved ones. We can't do it without their support, the support of their civilian employers and the support of our community."

As part of the Sustainment Services Flight, they provided life-sustaining functions as well as food services, fitness and lodging services for the deployed location. The team coordinated six Armed Forces entertainment and USO events, including 80 distinguished visitor tours for the 700 Airmen assigned to the location. Additionally, they provided lodging operations, which consisted of managing over 850 bed spaces including 100 distinguished visitors and 200 aircrew beds, using 92 percent of the installations capacity.

"This deployment demonstrated the value of the Air National Guard capability to our country and the fact that our members deploy globally serving our nation's call," said Col. Cory K. Reid of Bartonville, Illinois, 182nd Mission Support Group commander. "They performed flawlessly. Now we are able to welcome them safely back home and congratulate them on a job well done."

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 has deployed more than 4,000 members in support of operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Many of the wing's members have deployed numerous times. The wing has flown more than 17,500 hours in direct support of OEF and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This deployment cycle is one of many in the wing's history of supporting the Global War on Terrorism.

The Airmen will arrive at Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport at approximately 6 p.m. on January 17. This information is approved for release as of that time. For more information, contact the Public Affairs office.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/24/2014)(readMedia)-- The Warrior 2 Warrior (W2W) program is the Illinois Army National Guard's (ILARNG) only direct, peer-based, support program for Soldiers who do not qualify for traditional veteran benefits because they have not deployed.

Born from the 'Buddy 2 Buddy' program founded in Michigan, the Illinois W2W program evolved from its foster foundation. The Illinois National Guard program supports the servicemembers and families. The program works in direct partnership with the ILARNG, the McCormick Foundation and the Health and Disability Advocates.

"If you are genuinely struggling, I would definitely refer you to the Warrior 2 Warrior program," said Pfc. Reggie Shepherd of Berwyn, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery in Chicago. "They have been and continue to be a big part of how I was able to get a job, find housing and support myself."

Shepherd learned about the program after a volunteer veteran visited his unit. The volunteer explained what the W2W program is, how it works and how Soldiers can seek help.

"When the volunteer veteran came to my drill weekend, it couldn't have been at a better time as I was coming up on being homeless," said Shepherd.

Whitney Shefte, a Peabody award-winning broadcaster took interest in the efforts of the W2W program in October. She highlighted the program in a short documentary in the Washington Post in November. The documentary can view it at: .

"The W2W program was able to provide me with a wealth of resources that lead me to my current employment, both my volunteer veteran and the veteran staff of Health and Disability Advocates (HAD) supported me throughout my entire job search," said Shepherd.

The HAD, ILARNG W2W program and the servicemember support branch asserts the program and has historically served hundreds of service and family members of the Illinois National Guard community and continues to provide an outlet of connection for Illinois veterans seeking to help those who serve.

"They really took the time to help me share my struggles and find a path towards employment," said Shepherd. "They helped me to develop a resume and let me use the computer lab resources and phone lines to network and set up interviews. They even connected me to other resources which ultimately enabled me to receive financial support."

SPRINGFIELD, IL (11/12/2014)(readMedia)-- A deployment ceremony is scheduled for five Soldiers who will deploy to Afghanistan as part of an embedded staff team. The ceremony for the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A14 will be Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. at Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield, Illinois.

The Soldiers will train for a brief time at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying to Afghanistan. The unique mission allows Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers to train and deploy side-by-side with their Polish counterparts. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

"Our 20-year partnership with Poland is the strongest National Guard State Partnership Program in the nation," said Daniel Krumrei of Springfield, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "Illinois Soldiers and Airmen are instrumental in developing secure international relationships, while broadening their experiences and developing their military skills."

The team is expected to return to Illinois in spring 2015.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (10/14/2014)(readMedia)-- Story by Staff Sgt. Aleah M. Castrejon, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, an Illinois National Guardsman with Joint Force Headquarters, announced her military retirement 10 years after her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq and she lost both legs.

Duckworth commissioned with the Army Reserves in May 1992 and joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1996, with dreams of becoming a Foreign Service officer, and someday an ambassador, she said.

"I was studying for my master's degree and in my classes were a lot of vets, drilling Reservists and Guardsmen," said Duckworth. "I just naturally gravitated toward those folks as my friends."

Her college friends advised her to understand the military better and attend military classes. Before long, she was heading off to military training.

"I had just been laid off from my job and everything worked out," said Duckworth. "I was able to go to basic training. So off I went to cadet basic training. It was miserable, but I loved the challenge."

Duckworth faced many hurdles throughout her career. In 2004, she deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade Nov. 12, 2004. Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and received a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kurt Hannemann of Chicago, with Company B, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation in Peoria, Illinois, served as a door gunner on the same Blackhawk that was shot down. Hannemann said he considers Duckworth a mentor, admiring her mission-focused attitude and attention to detail.

Having been in the military for 23 years, Duckworth said balancing her civilian job and military career was the most challenging.

"I've always been a Reservist or Guardsman," said Duckworth. "During my command of Company B, 106th Aviation, it was a part-time job. That balance between being a citizen-Soldier and my civilian job has always been a real challenge throughout my career."

While Duckworth mentioned many fond memories and many testing situations, she always had a mentor to guide her.

"The person I have worked both closely with and for has been Colonel Sikowski," said Duckworth. "He taught me to be thoughtful, whereas the Army teaches you to be decisive. You want to make a decision and execute, but he taught me to be patient."

Sikowski responded to situations after taking time to think and come up with a better solution, one that had better long-term effects, said Duckworth.

"I carry his thoughtfulness to Washington and I teach that to my staff," said Duckworth, who is also a congresswoman. "I've always admired that and I carry that through the rest of my career."

Duckworth was not originally scheduled to deploy to Iraq in 2004, but volunteered for the deployment, said Sikowski.

"She was my right-hand person as far as operations for the entire task force," said Sikowski.

Sikowski required his staff to fly twice a week and remain fully engaged in the mission during the deployment.

"Tammy's always been driven," said Sikowski. "She's the type of person who can accomplish anything she wants to do whether this incident happened or not."

After her helicopter was shot down, Duckworth was determined to stay in the military.

She said she learned to enjoy other aspects of the military just as much as flying. She joined to become a pilot and flying was her passion; however, working in a tactical operations center (TOC) is something she enjoyed second to flying.

"I am a total TOC rat," said Duckworth. "I love writing operations orders, even though I cannot fly. The other thing I really love is TOC operations and being in the Joint Operations Center."

"It has been a privilege to serve with all of these amazing folks. I am so proud of what they do," said Duckworth. "The American people do not know what our National Guardsmen give up to wear the uniform."

Duckworth recalled many notable missions during her military career. She said she flew Bell UH-1, also known as a Huey, around the Pyramids in Egypt, Blackhawks over glaciers in Iceland and completed a deployment to Iraq.

"The greatest part of my career was when I was in command of Company B, 106th Aviation," said Duckworth. "As tough as it was and the hard work that it was, that was by far the best part of my career."

Duckworth maintained many great relationships and built a network of friends while in the military.

"We all have friends that go way back," said Duckworth. "You may not see them for ages, but when you do it's old home week. I treasure it."

In talking about her 10-year anniversary, Duckworth tears up thinking about that day and the Soldiers who saved her.

"They literally carried me off of the field," said Duckworth. "It's my turn to do a little carrying. Not a day goes by that I don't get up and say, 'What can I do to pay back?"

Choosing to remain in the military after the incident, Sikowski said it is quite an amazing accomplishment given the severity of her injuries that she continues serving so well.

Duckworth recently got her fixed wing pilot license and started flying again. Her motivation comes from the lifestyle of being a pilot, said Sikowski.

"The requirements, time and effort it takes to become a pilot becomes a lifestyle," said Sikowski. "It doesn't leave your blood. It's another one of those accomplishments that requires the drive that she possesses."

As she continues with her civilian career, she is working to ensure the veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom receive the care they need.

"I am working with respiratory and neurological associations to do studies," said Duckworth. "I don't want our Soldiers to wait 20 years before they are treated like agent orange and Gulf War syndrome."

Duckworth recently announced her pregnancy and said she has big plans after retirement.

"I plan on continuing my civilian job, raising this baby and being as big a cheerleader of the Guard as I can," said Duckworth. "I'll be a Guard spouse, as my husband is still in."

In the last decade, Duckworth has accomplished many personal goals including scuba diving, surfing, skydiving, marathons, going back to school, and helping in her community.

"Through her, I have learned that humans can be very resilient, both physically and mentally," said Hannemann. "I am very proud of how she has taken a negative thing and turned it into such a positive outcome."

SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/30/2014)(readMedia)-- Illinois National Guard collaborates with rape crisis centersSPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Daniel M. Krumrei of Springfield, Illinois, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard signed memorandums of understanding between the Illinois National Guard and multiple rape crisis centers throughout Illinois at Camp Lincoln, Sept. 30.

"At the center of our vision for the future of the Illinois National Guard, is for us to always do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons," said Krumrei. "While it's true that sexual assault negatively affects our mission effectiveness, there is an even bigger picture here and that is to do right by our Soldiers, Airmen, and our citizens. This is what right looks like."

The memorandums establish a written understanding between the Illinois National Guard and 27 rape crisis centers; defining processes and procedures for the coordination of services and support for National Guard military personnel who are victims of sexual assault residing within the centers' service area.

"Governor Quinn has made it crystal clear that sexual assault has no place in the great state of Illinois, and we in the Illinois National Guard do not tolerate it within our ranks," said Krumrei. "It is our top priority to create an environment where all of our servicemembers are safe. We will provide for every person in all of our formations, the simple human dignity that we all deserve."

The memorandums provide insight into the care and advocacy a sexual assault victim receives and promotes communication between organizations to assess and support a victim's needs.

"Anytime more victims can be served, it is a good thing," said Sean Black, communications coordinator for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "We are looking forward to this partnership; we hope this reduces violence in the Guard and outside of the Guard. The education we can provide will help reduce sexual violence. It is a step in the right direction to prevent sexual violence."

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/17/2014)(readMedia)-- FORT BENNING, Ga. - Illinois National Guard Soldiers placed in the All Army Long Range Championship at Fort Benning, Georgia, September 8-11.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Mix of Marseilles, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Chicago, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brandon Gibbs of Pleasant Plains, Illinois, with Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion, took first and second overall in the service rifle category.

The competition is an advanced combat live-fire training event open to Active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.

This year, seven National Guard Soldiers competed out of 32 competitors. The Soldiers made up three two-man teams and had one individual competitor.

The two categories for this competition are service rifle (U.S. rifle, 7.62mm, M21 or M24) and bolt (U.S. rifle, caliber .300 Winchester Magnum M2010 or M-24). In all five matches, the competitors had 15 shots for record at each distance of 800, 900 and 1,000 yards.

"It's fun," said Maj. David Stapp, sustainment commander at the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center in Camp Robinson, Arkansas.

Even though many competitors enjoy competing, they must spend a lot of time with their weapon to be successful.

"I have to know the data and wind charts to prepare," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Landon of Creal Springs, Illinois, with the 3637th Support Maintenance Company in Springfield, Illinois.

The Soldiers have to know the data for their weapon and learn how wind affects distance and direction of their shot, which requires the Soldiers to practice in their personal time.

"I go to civilian ranges to practice on my own and start going over my wind charts and data in advance to mentally prepare," said Mix.