SPRINGFIELD, IL (07/16/2013)(readMedia)-- By Staff Sgt. Bryan Spreitzer, Task Force White Eagle Public Affairs Liaison and Sgt. Robert R. Adams, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Sixteen Illinois National Guard Soldiers were presented unit insignia from the Polish 25th Air Cavalry Brigade (ACB) June 22 in Afghanistan.
The unit insignia of the 25th ACB was awarded to the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team A11 (BEST A11) Soldiers. This unit insignia has never been awarded to a non-Polish servicemember. The BEST mission is liaison support with the staff of Polish Task Force White Eagle in Ghazni. The Illinois Soldiers are partnered with the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade of Tomaszow Mazowiecki, commanded by Brig. Gen. Marek Sokolowski.
Sokolowski said the 25th is a close knit, uniquely ran brigade. The decision to bestow such an honor on the embedded Soldiers was an easy one to make, he said.
"We are all family here in Ghazni," said Sokolowski. "My Illinois Soldiers display the pride and honor of a fellow 25th Soldier."
Col. Christopher Lawson of Chatham, Ill., Deputy U.S. Commander of Task Force White Eagle and BEST A11 Commander, has worked with the Polish since 1994.
"The Polish Armed Forces have a proud tradition of service and sacrifice," said Lawson. "The 25th Air Calvary Brigade is an elite air mobile infantry unit that has high standards and expectations of its members. To be recognized as one of its members is the highest honor and I am humbled by this recognition," said Lawson.
Maj. Darren Horton of Springfield, Ill., U.S. Contracting and Personnel Officer for Task Force White Eagle is in the process of getting the insignia authorized for wear as a combat badge.
"I am working with Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Virginia to request approval for our team to wear the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade's insignia as a combat badge on our dress uniforms," said Horton. "Working for a Polish Brigade has been a unique and incredible experience and it would be an honor to be authorized to wear the combat badge of the Polish 25th ACB, which has performed so remarkably."
Horton said it will most likely be a lengthy process and a challenge to get approved, but the great experience of serving with the 25th ACB is well worth it.
With the award of the 25th's unit insignia, the 16-man team from Illinois will forever be a part of the Polish 25th Air Cavalry Brigade and the Polish Land Forces. The team says its deployment experience has been very unique, and an once-in-a-lifetime moment the men of the BEST A11 will cherish for the rest of their lives. The BEST A11 is expected to be back in Illinois around Christmas.