March 8 ceremony recognizes Soldiers with 1965th Contingency Contracting Team and Bilateral Embedded Staff Team

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/03/2015)(readMedia)-- Two teams of Soldiers will be recognized March 8 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Approximately 20 Soldiers will be recognized at 2 p.m. at Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield, Illinois.

1965th Contingency Contracting Team

Four Soldiers with the 1965th Contingency Contracting Team (CCT) mobilized in March 2014 and deployed to Afghanistan, returning home in November 2014. Two Springfield Soldiers on the team will be part of the ceremony. The other two had follow-on missions after the deployment.

The 1965th CCT is a group of highly-skilled contracting officers and contract specialists who executed and administered government funds through contracts to obtain goods, services and construction from commercial sources to support contingency operations.

Capt. David Picchi of Springfield, Illinois was part of the team and recognized as a top performer for Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command. The region includes Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar. Sgt. Ronald Witt Jr. of Springfield, Illinois will join Picchi at the ceremony.

Picchi said the team provided contracted mission support through the procurement of critical life support services such as water, trash, sanitation, dining facility operations, security and deconstruction services.

The 1965th executed and facilitated the logistics drawdown mission of the regional commands within Afghanistan. The team facilitated the downsizing of dozens of bases, as well as the closing of major theater airfields within the region.

All members of the team will be awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal as well, as the NATO service ribbon. Sgt 1st Class Marc Graves of Springfield, Illinois was also recognized as a top performer for Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command. Maj. Milton Ware Jr. of Chicago and Graves were part of the team, but unable to be part of the ceremony because of additional missions following the 1965th deployment.

Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A13

Approximately 20 Soldiers with the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A13 trained with the Polish Land Forces before mobilizing in April 2014. The Soldiers returned to their families Dec. 19, 2014.

The unique mission allowed 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.

While deployed to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, the Soldiers facilitated operations with Task Force White Eagle, which is primarily composed of the Polish 10th Logistics Brigade. BEST Soldiers were embedded with the Polish brigade to synchronize task force operations.

BEST A13 had many accomplishments while in Afghanistan, including the recovery and turn-in of $3.5 million of unaccounted U.S. property, which would have been a loss to the government. The team also expanded the capability and functionality of the Polish military, a NATO partner. The Illinois National Guard has been a state partner with Poland since 1993, including side-by-side deployments with Polish Forces the past 20 years.

Freedom Salute Campaign

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

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and should notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m., March 6 to be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.

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