Soldiers from Riverton, Villa Park Among Those Observing Solemn Day in Afghanistan

KUNAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN (09/16/2011)(readMedia)-- Servicemembers at Camp Wright in Kunar Province spent a solemn day commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and celebrating the life of a fallen comrade Sept. 11.

Members of the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), the Illinois National Guard's 1-14th Illinois Agribusiness Development Team, the 102nd Forward Surgical Team and the 744th Engineer Company, Route Clearance Patrol 46 were among the military units participating in the day's events.

At 23 years old, U.S. Army Spc. John Cowgill, of Riverton, a security force member for the 1-14th Illinois Agribusiness Development Team.

Those events of a decade ago had a deep impact on who he is and on the direction his life has taken.

"Ten years ago I never thought I would be spending this day in Afghanistan," said Cowgill. "I still feel anger over what happened, but I've learned that anger can be channeled toward helping people and making a difference. That is what I see today and that is what makes me proud to be here."

A ceremony at the Camp Wright dining facility began the day of remembrance. Two members of the Kunar PRT, who were in New York on the day of the terrorist attacks, shared their experiences with those who had gathered.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darlene Croston, of Binghamton, N.Y., an administrative specialist with the Kunar PRT, was working in New York as a nanny for a member of the New York Fire Department who was killed that day.

Croston said sharing those experiences was an important part of the occasion.

"Ten years [later], it might be easy to forget why we are here," she said. "Just as with any loss, time dulls the pain. It is important that we remember our goals so this country does not become an incubator for that type of terrorism again."

The ceremony concluded as an American flag, which was previously flown aboard the USS New York, was passed solemnly between enlisted servicemembers representing different units and branches of service.

The Cpl. Raphael Arruda Fitness Center in Afghanistan was dedicated during a separate ceremony later in the day.

U.S. Army Cpl. Raphael Arruda, of South Ogden, Utah, a combat engineer with the 744th Engineer Company, Route Clearance Patrol 46, was killed when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device during a combat patrol June 16.

Members of the 744th spoke of Arruda's love of physical fitness and said the dedication was a fitting tribute to the Soldier who grew up in Brazil and had recently received his U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Hansen, of Layton, Utah, an operations specialist with the 744th, said his entire unit was behind the idea of the dedication.

"It started off as one person's idea, but everyone pitched in and it became a group effort," said Hansen. "All those who served with him will be happy to know his legacy is living on after we are gone. He would be very happy about this, but he would also be humbled. He would consider it a great honor."

A plaque bearing Arruda's name and the words "let's get swole" - a phrase he used to get others into the gym - was unveiled during the ceremony.

When night fell, residents of Camp Wright took to rooftops and high ground for an unobstructed view of the clear night sky. As illumination rounds lit the mountainside, someone spoke of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the ensuing War on Terrorism.

While many of the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of Camp Wright were well into their military careers on Sept. 11, 2001, others were just beginning their careers as junior-high students.

Story U.s. Army Spc. Christopher A. Garibay, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

MAYWOOD (09/12/2011)(readMedia)-- Soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), including Col. Paul C. Hastings of St. Charles, commander of the 33rd IBCT, honored Soldiers who fought in the Battle of Bataan during World War II for the Maywood Bataan Day Organization's annual service Sept. 11 at Veterans Park in Maywood.

The Maywood Bataan Day Organization and the Village of Maywood jointly sponsored the event to bring awareness to the harsh conditions Soldiers endured during America's campaign in the Pacific in World War II.

Hastings, the keynote speaker for the event, honored the efforts of Soldiers in the past and stressed the importance of America's continued fight against terrorists today.

"I'm humbled and honored to pay tribute, collectively, to these heroes of Bataan; for those who gave so much and asked for nothing in return," said Hastings." "No American, no Filipino can ever, must never, forget."

Hastings said it was important for citizens to remember those committed to fighting in today's wars, having done so for over 10 years.

"Just as it was for the Greatest Generation, we bring the fight to the enemy - behind our flag is resolute purpose," he said. "To those we lost at the Fall of Bataan, and to those we lost after 9/11; we shall never forget."

Spc. Terron Carter, a Maywood native and a soldier from the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bowman Plainfield , the command sergeant major of the 33rd IBCT, honored the men of Bataan by placing a wreath on the 192nd Tank Battalion Memorial.

The 192nd, based in Maywood, was part of the Illinois National Guard's 33 rd Infantry Division, the predessor of today's 33rd IBCT.

The event included Guest Speaker Emilio O. Hildalgo, a retired colonel of the Judge Advocate Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and former Judge General of the Philippines Air Force. Hildalgo described in vivid detail the events surrounding the Battle of Bataan, and subsequently, what has been dubbed the Bataan Death March after Japanese forces captured Allied troops on April 9, 1942. It would not be until February 17, 1945 that Allied Forces would retake the Bataan Peninsula.

"Out of the 89 who left Maywood for the Philippines in 1941, only 43 came home," said Hildalgo. "We do not have any regrets. We have fought for a good and just cause. We have done our duty for God and Country."

The memorial event also paid tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and passengers of Flight 93. First responders were also commemorated at the event.

Edwin H. Walker IV, Vice President of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization, said it was humbling to know people who were committed to serving in America's Armed Forces today as well as honoring those who served in the past.

Special guests included the U.S. Navy Great Lakes Ceremonial Band, American Legion Posts, VietNow Color Guard, local elected officials and veterans.

photo 1) U.S. Army photo by and PFC Alisha D. Grezlik, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs/ Spc. Terron Carter, a Maywood native and a soldier from the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery Regiment, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bowman of Plainfield, the command sergeant major of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, honor the men of Bataan by placing a wreath on the 192nd Tank Battalion Memorial.

photo 2) U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher A. Garibay, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs/ Col. Paul C. Hastings of St. Charles, commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, bows his head in prayer during the Maywood Bataan Day Annual Memorial Service in Maywood Sept. 11 at Maywood. The event sought to remember the efforts of Soldiers in the past, present and future.

CHICAGO, IL (09/10/2011)(readMedia)-- Members of the Illinois Army National Guard joined Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago Sept. 10 stressing the importance of the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. To date, the fund has distributed almost $13 million dollars to Illinois military families to assist with the financial burden at home when a loved one is deployed.

Photo 1: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, speaks about the importance of the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund (IMFRF) to the over 19,000 Illinois National Guard troops who have deployed overseas since Sept. 11, 2001. The IMFRF was the first of its kind to be established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. To the right of Enyart is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Photo 2: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/

Sgt. Charlie Helmholt of Belleville of the Illinois Army National Guard's 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment speaks of his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001 when he was a member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division "The Old Guard," which responded to the Pentagon immediately after the terrorist attacks. Helmholt said the police officers, firefighters and servicemembers are much more heroic than sports stars or movie actors. To the right of Helmholt is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Photo 3: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Capt. Ling Chong of the Illinois Army National Guard's Co. C, 341st Military Intelligence Battalion in Crestwood speaks about how the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund benefitted him and his family as well as many of the Soldiers he leads. Behind Chong is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

For high resolution photos and additional photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/08/2011)(readMedia)-- By 2nd Lt. April Hawes, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

Before the planes hit and before the towers crumbled, it was a routine Tuesday morning for four Illinois National Guardsmen. One Soldier was teaching in his classroom while a future Illinois Soldier was listening to her teacher in biology class. Across the world, an Illinois Airman arrived in Germany for annual training. Another Airman, then with the New York National Guard, was on Long Island when disaster struck.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock

When Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock, of Astoria, joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1993, he did it because he wanted to continue his family heritage of military service while getting his education. Soon after, he became a high school teacher in Astoria.

September 11, 2001 another teacher told Carlock what was happening on the east coast. He immediately turned on the TV in his classroom to see it for himself.

"I stopped all of my planned lessons for the day and made all of my students watch everything on the news," he said. "I urged them to remember that day as it would be a pivotal day in American history and they are to witness it."

Carlock, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Macomb, said he was instantly shocked and angered when he witnessed the 9/11 attacks. He then realized, as an Illinois National Guardsman, he needed to be prepared to possibly deploy stateside or abroad because of these attacks.

Carlock eventually deployed in 2004 to Iraq with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Macomb.

Since he has joined, witnessed those terrorist attacks and deployed, Carlock said he is proud of his service in the Illinois Army National Guard.

"I believe that we have proven ourselves as a professional organization that deserves the same respect

that the Active Army receives," he said. "From our efforts and professionalism, I think the National Guard is

looked at in a much more positive light compared to the years prior to Sept. 11, 2001. I feel very proud that I have been able to serve at such a crucial time."

Sgt. Sara Minder

Like Carlock, Sgt. Sara Minder of Springfield, with Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield, watched the events of that historic day on TV while sitting in a high-school classroom.

"All I could do was sit and stare at the TV. No one in the classroom said a word," she said. "I think we were all hoping the first plane was just an accident. Seeing the second plane hit made me realize that this was intentional."

Eighteen months later, she joined the Illinois Army National Guard.

Her reason for joining had a dual-purpose. She said she wanted to be like her cousin and best friend, Jason, who was a Marine. She said she also wanted to do something after she felt the fear of her country on 9/11.

Just two months after she enlisted, Jason was killed in a helicopter accident in Iraq.

In August 2003, she left for basic training and advanced individual training, which she was pulled out of a week early for a deployment. She returned home for four days and then travelled to Iraq with the 232nd Corps Support Battalion in Springfield. She spent her 19th birthday and the first anniversary of Jason's death overseas.

While she remembers the fear she felt 10 years ago on 9/11, Minder said she hopes her service in the Illinois Army National Guard will prevent her fellow Americans from experiencing the same fear in the future.

"I feel a stronger sense of duty to my country," she said. "I do not want another generation to have to feel the fear that we felt on that day."

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens, of Elk Grove Village, was on foreign soil 10 years ago when he heard about the terrorist attacks. He had just landed in Germany for annual training as the first sergeant with the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron attached to the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield.

A cashier at the base exchange was the first to tell him a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He then watched German TV and listened to the radio to learn a second plane crashed into the South

Tower and yet another plane crashed into the Pentagon.

"(I felt) anger and rage that someone would attack America and kill innocent civilians," said Stevens, who is now assigned to the 183rd Air Operations Group in Springfield.

While he felt anger and rage, Stevens said Airmen around him were also angry, shocked and confused by the terrorist attacks. Since he joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1985, Stevens said he had always been proud to defend his country, but after 9/11 he saw his service in a more serious light.

"I always took my military career serious, but this made it more real and important," he said. "The level of seriousness about (what) we do struck home."

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek, of O'Fallon, walked into chaos when she went to work at the Office of Student Affairs at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y. on that Tuesday morning.

Fellow employees gathered around the TV while the phones rang off the hook with frantic New Yorkers on the other end asking what they should do. The college president soon announced classes were cancelled and urged students not to travel toward Manhattan.

As others went back to their desks, Piskacek stayed glued to the TV.

"It fell," she told her co-workers.

"What fell?" they asked her.

"The tower," she said.

They didn't believe her. They didn't want to believe her; until they came back to the TV to witness the smoke for themselves, she said.

At the time, Piskacek was assigned to the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, which soon became a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. The 105th lost two Airmen that day, one of whom she knew. Piskacek also said many 105th Airmen lost family and friends from the terrorist attacks.

It wasn't until 2004 when she said she realized how significant 9/11 was to all Americans, not just New Yorkers.

She said she was at an Air Force noncommissioned officer academy when the subject came up. She heard everyone else recall the day, just as she remembered, and said she was surprised to hear everyone was just as affected as she was.

"As New Yorkers, we didn't think of anything outside of New York City," she said. "It's so weird when you're that close to New York City and then you hear everyone else's account."

In 2004 she transferred to the Illinois Air National Guard. She then deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, where she is currently assigned.

Since her military career began with the Air Force in 1989, Piskacek said 9/11 brought a new meaning to her service.

"I've always been proud to serve, but Sept. 11 made it more personal," she said.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/07/2011)(readMedia)

Editors Note; What follows is Sgt. Charlie Helmholt's First Person Account of His Experience Responding to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Helmholt is an Illinois National Guard Soldier from Belleville Assigned to the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


Every generation in this country has one of those days. The day you'll always remember where you were, or what you were doing. Some of them are our nation's greatest achievements like man's first walk on the moon, and some are catastrophes like the attack on Pearl Harbor, or JFK's assassination. These days are destined for more than just pages or paragraphs in history books, they change the very fabric of what it means to be a citizen of this country.

September 11, 2001. When someone says the date we all feel it. Maybe for some that feeling is still anger, or perhaps pain or sorrow. But undoubtedly we all share the commonality of the sight of planes crashing into buildings, or seeing a charred spot in a Pennsylvanian field.

While I remember those things, for me, it really isn't any images I saw on television that I think of when someone mentions the date. When I think about that day I think mostly of the smoke, the flag and the shoe.


I was serving in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division The Old Guard, the Army's Honor Guard, a high standard ceremonial unit used as the presidents official military escort as well as various tasks in and around Arlington National Cemetery. The Honor Guard is split between Ft. McNair, in Washington D.C., and Ft. Myer, Va., both within eyesight of the Pentagon.

I belonged to A Company, which is housed at Ft. McNair, a beautiful little peninsular base of D.C. It is surrounded by the Potomac River and is preceded by the iconic tidal basin seen laden with cherry trees and blossoms in so many photos during the spring.

That morning we took a bus across the I-395 bridge over the Potomac, to Ft. Myer in Virginia, just a few miles away.

We were in a giant building nicknamed C-hall when the crash happened, and we were close enough to hear the impact. Everyone ran outside at once, around the building, and everyone froze. The Pentagon, our countries symbolic building of military strength was alive spewing gigantic plumes of black smoke into the air.

The Pentagon is such an imposing building; it employs more than 23,000 people. It was a surreal sight. I remember the confusion, fear and anger as we loaded the bus to get back across the water.

We were stopped on the bridge going back into D.C., so we got off and ran roughly a mile-and-a-half down the tidal basin along the water that led back to Ft. McNair. We all sprinted. Each one of us silent. All the while the Pentagon bled out dark smoke just over our shoulders at only a glance away, there across the river.


After securing our fort in D.C. we were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Pentagon. We had been told that since most members of our unit had security clearances we would be needed to augment the search and rescue mission inside the building.

We were briefed by firefighters on what we could expect to see; instructions were given by military brass on what we could never discuss, and we were sworn to secrecy on any sensitive material the floors or broken cabinets inside might share with us.

We were put in suits, full white garbage bag-like suits and given a civilian 3m-type gas mask. We walked under the slab of roof that hung down in front of the hole for the first time, and when we did, I could have never been prepared for what I saw.

When I describe it, I always tell people to imagine a bomb going off in a junkyard, but that's not near enough disaster. It was sheer chaos. I think before we arrived everyone hoped to be the one to find someone alive and bring them out, but when you walked in that first time all those hopes were shattered, no one could have been alive inside.

Huge support columns had to be reinforced, and in some cases built anew to keep the weight of the damaged building from collapsing. Then the arduous task of sifting through debris, separating biological remains from a jungle of twisted metal began. Many more red biohazard bags for body parts were filled than body bags with intact bodies.

There were moments during this time some of us would come together to weep during the days and weeks that followed. One memory in particular sticks with me. Just the thought of a friend fighting back tears, holding up the shoe of a young boy ,almost certainly a passenger on the plane that tore through the building just a day or two before.


If I remember correctly we worked six-hour shifts around the clock for the first two weeks or so. We even slept there, on site in tents. Most of the work was hard labor moving bomb proof filing cabinets that were twisted and torn to pieces or making sense of countless office décor strewn together, mixed in with all the rest.

Then a different kind of memory jumps in my mind; I remember getting to leave for something after a few weeks, and there were people on some of the overpasses holding huge American flags over the interstates during weird times of the day. Early, like Army early when people should be sleeping or getting ready for their day.

People were coming together in a way which I'd never seen in my lifetime or have since. People volunteered to help, counselors gave us free sessions, masseuses gave massages and phone companies set up lines to call whomever for free.

In fact, what I feel most about that day is pride. Of course I'm not proud of what happened, but when I saw the huge flags over the interstate and the even bigger one on the Pentagon itself, it filled me with pride to see us come together to help one another.

I was proud to be a Soldier, in a team of Soldiers, firefighters, police or volunteers who went into wounded buildings with the sole intent to help someone they had never met only because those people live under a common flag. Some would never make it back out.

For all of our country's faults, it is still the greatest country in the world, not just because we say it is, but because we can face such hardship and prevail all the stronger. And that's what I mean when I say I remember the flag, not the colors or fabric, but the symbolism behind it. It is the representation of everyone who died that fate-filled day in September and all the days before. It's pride in men who, guessing their fate, charged the plane's cockpit, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than be used. Its pride in the ones left behind who are strong enough to hold up our flag so that this land and the entire world will know that we will never forget and we will always prevail.

For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569 or at

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HAYS, KAN. (09/07/2011)(readMedia)-- Nancy Marie O'Rourke, Bettendorf, Iowa, has graduated from Fort Hays State University with a Master of Science in Education, reading specialist.

O'Rourke is one of 102 students who completed master's or education specialist degrees in the summer 2011 semester. Degrees were announced by Dr. Tim Crowley, dean of FHSU's Graduate School.

The student's home ZIP is 52722. The ZIP code is included for the convenience of those papers that use it as a guide to placement.

Fort Hays State University's announcement of degrees includes only graduates whose transcripts and records have been verified as meeting all requirements for the degrees listed. FHSU does not release the list until all the graduates have been verified, a process that takes two to three weeks after the end of the semester.

FHSU, a state supported institution with an enrollment of about 12,000, is one of six universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system.

DES MOINES, IA (09/01/2011)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald announced today that Iowa has joined other states in declaring September as "College Savings Month" in an effort to increase awareness among families about the importance of saving for their children's higher education expenses.

College Savings Month is a time when families are encouraged to explore the benefits of saving through a 529 plan like College Savings Iowa. Studies have shown that children who have money saved for school are almost four times more likely to attend a four-year college than those with no account.* This makes saving ahead of time one of the most significant things families can do to help make college a reality for their children. By starting early, saving a little at a time and making smart investment choices, parents can make their savings work for them.

"I want families to know it's never too early to start planning for their child's future education," said Fitzgerald. "As a way to raise awareness about the importance of saving for higher education, College Savings Iowa is giving away a free $1,000 account. I encourage Iowans to register today for a chance to win and jump start their college savings." To register, visit

College Savings Iowa is an affordable, tax-advantaged option for families who are saving for their children's higher education. It takes just $25 to open a College Savings Iowa account, and anyone - parents, grandparents, friends and relatives - can invest on behalf of a child. Participants who are Iowa taxpayers can deduct contributions up to $2,865 per beneficiary account from their adjusted gross income in 2011 and there no income or residency restrictions.**

Investors do not need to be a state resident and can withdraw their investment federally tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and certain room and board costs at any eligible college, university, community college or technical training school in the United States or abroad. To learn more about College Savings Iowa, go to or call 1-888-332-7545.

*From the Center for Social Development study: The Role of Savings and Wealth in Reducing "Wilt" between Expectations and College Attendance. William Elliott III and Sondra Beverly, 2010.

**Adjusted annually for inflation if withdrawals are not qualified, the deductions must be added back to Iowa taxable income. The earnings portion of nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. The availability of tax or other benefits may be contingent on meeting other requirements.


ROCK ISLAND, IL (09/01/2011)(readMedia)-- Forty-five Augustana College students are studying contemporary and historic Britain and Europe from the heart of one of the world's greatest cities, London. The Fall Term in London program offers students a chance to explore the area while studying with Augustana and British faculty.

From your area this includes:

Kayla Ferguson, a junior from, Orion, Ill. majoring in liberal studies.

Anna Tunnicliff, a junior from, Bettendorf, Iowa majoring in history.

Timothy Gillman, a senior from, Rock Island, Ill. majoring in geography.

John Peters, a senior from, Milan, Ill. majoring in history.

Laurel Williams, a senior from, Milan, Ill. majoring in communication sciences & disorders and English.

"London is a rich historical and cultural center," said Dr. Catherine Carter Goebel, professor and chair of art history at Augustana. "I particularly look forward to sharing its wonderful museums and fabulous art collections with our students. Studying art history through firsthand examination of some of the finest artwork in the world, as well as visiting relevant historic sites, is an exciting opportunity both for our Augustana students as well as their professor."

Joining Dr. Goebel in London will be Dr. Peter Kivisto, professor of sociology, anthropology and social welfare at Augustana. Five courses will be offered during the London term, including sociology and art history taught by Augustana professors, in addition to British history, theatre and contemporary politics taught by local faculty. Included with coursework and as part of the program are several group excursions in and around London, including guided tours of landmarks, museums, theatrical productions and a soccer match, as well as day trips to such historic sites as Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bath and Oxford.

Traveling around and learning more about Great Britain and Europe is what attracted Martin King, a senior geography major from Oswego, Ill., to sign up for the study-abroad program. While in London, students will live in student apartments in the Kensington neighborhood. They will be based in Glasgow during a one-week excursion in Scotland.

Of the 45 Augustana students enrolled in the London program, 39 applied for and received $2,000 through the college's Augie Choice program to help pay for expenses. Augie Choice provides students with the opportunity for the kinds of learning that will make them stand out when they start careers or go on to graduate school.

For more information, contact Keri Rursch, director of public relations, at (309) 794-7721.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/31/2011)(readMedia)-- Governor Pat Quinn has ordered Illinois National Guard helicopters and troops to state active duty to assist with Vermont flood relief operations after receiving a request for assistance from the state. Approximately 95 members of the Illinois National Guard are now in Rome, N.Y., and will maintain their base of operations in the state while their helicopters fly into Burlington, Vt. From Burlington, they will be dispatched to deliver food, water and medicine to several towns in Vermont that are isolated by flooding.

"As our friends in Vermont face some of the worst flooding their state has seen in over a century, we want them to know we are here to help," Governor Quinn said. "I'm proud that the soldiers in the Illinois National Guard are able to respond so quickly to the needs of our fellow Americans. Illinois has one of the best emergency management programs in the nation and we are thankful to be able to lend a helping hand during this time of need."

The six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters, pilots and crew, ground support vehicles, and command and control staff were prepositioned in New York Aug. 29 to 30 and have now received an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request for assistance in Vermont. The EMAC is a nationwide system through which states affected by disasters can receive additional resources.

"We are proud to help the residents of Vermont in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "This again shows the dedication and professionalism of the men and women that make up the Illinois National Guard and their willingness to help their fellow Americans during a time of need."Units providing hurricane relief in Vermont include : Headquarters and Headquarters Company; 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria and elements of Company A, 106th Aviation Battalion in Decatur; Company B, 106th Aviation Battalion in Chicago; Company C and Company D, 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria; and 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Peoria.

"Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we're able to quickly coordinate the deployment of critical resources in response to requests from states affected by Hurricane Irene," said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "We are continuing to work closely with Vermont and other states to provide the assistance they need to save lives and cope with the devastation left behind by this massive storm."

Three regional coordinators from IEMA have been deployed in response to a request from the state of New York through the EMAC. They are working with the 24/7 planning section on developing plans to address hurricane response and recovery issues. New York and Vermont will reimburse Illinois for expenses related to both deployments.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment in Peoria convoy arrives at Griffiss Airfield, Rome, N.Y., Aug. 28, in support of flood operations for Hurricane Irene.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Pfc. Cresean J. Sweezey-Errar, of Edwardsville, a Blackhawk crew chief with the Illinois National Guard's Company A, 106th Aviation in Decatur, prepares for a flood relief mission, Aug. 30. in Rome, N.Y.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Two Illinois National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters in Rome, N.Y., Aug. 30 for flood relief operations.

For more information and photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at



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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/30/2011)(readMedia)-- Col. Mark VanUs, of Springfield, the command Inspector General of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard was awarded one of the U.S. military's most prestigious awards for his 30 years of military service.

Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, presented VanUs with the Legion of Merit during a staff meeting Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

VanUs, a Romeoville native, is a member of the active Army assigned to the Illinois National Guard through the National Guard Bureau. He has served as the Illinois National Guard's command inspector general for the past year following his assignment as the Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems at Offutt Air Base in Nebraska. He officially retired on June 30, but was recalled by the United States Strategic Command to active duty to serve an additional tour.

The Legion of Merit is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a friendly foreign nation who has distinguished himself or herself through exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

The Legion of Merit is the U.S. military's sixth highest award. A few other notable Legion of Merit recipients include current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen, U.S. Sen. John McCain, British Gen. Bernard Montgomery, French Gen. Charles De Gaulle, and Polish officers Col. Stanislaw Wozniak, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, and Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders.

photo 1) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard pins Col. Mark VanUs of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard with the Legion of Merit Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

photo 2) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Col. Mark VanUs, of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard shakes hands with Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard after receiving the Legion of Merit Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

photo 3) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Col. Mark VanUs of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard accompanied by his wife, Vicky, speaks to senior leaders of the Illinois National Guard after receiving the Legion of Merit, one of the U.S. military's most prestigious awards for his 30 years of military service Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.



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