Illinois Special Forces Soldiers conduct Airborne training

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Kassidy L. Snyder, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

FORT MCCOY, WISC. (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- With great weather for Airborne training, approximately 30 Special Forces (SF) Soldiers with the Illinois National Guard's Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Chicago, conducted day and night static line and military free fall operations at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, August 8.

Three CH-47D Chinook helicopters from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment in Peoria, Illinois, provided transportation to and from the sky for the SF Soldiers. Static line jumps were performed from roughly 1,500 feet, while free fall jumps were from 14,000 feet.

"We rarely get the occasion for night jumps and it's a great opportunity to stay proficient and keep our jumpmasters current," said Company A, 2-20th's commander.

During the night, Soldiers performed a high altitude high opening jump where they opened the parachute immediately and traveled a lateral distance of 9 kilometers to the drop zone.

SF Soldiers must conduct four jumps a year to maintain jump proficiency. Jumpmasters are senior Soldiers who manage airborne jump operations. They inspect all equipment prior to loading the aircraft, confirm in-flight navigation and act as a safety for proper exiting procedures.

"It's always an interesting mission for us and good real-world training for the Special Forces," said Capt. A.J. Hager of Galesburg, Illinois, a Chinook pilot with Company B, 2-238th. "It keeps us proficient transporting troops and allows us to assist Soldiers within the Illinois Guard."

Company B, 2-238th returned from Afghanistan in December and was back to fully mission capable in April. The company typically does two to three paradrop operations a year in addition to passenger and cargo movement and external loads, said Hager.

Special Forces Soldiers complete a multitude of missions from maritime operations to surveillance and reconnaissance.

"Airborne operations, both static line and military free fall provide a means of infiltration; it is our way of getting to work." said Company A, 2-20th's operations officer.

A majority of the Soldiers with Company A, 2-20th are traditional Soldiers, who also hold a full-time civilian career ranging from attorney to rocket scientist and physician assistant. Their ages range from the early 20s to late 40s.

"Within the span of those ages, the knowledge and experience we have allows us to adapt a lot easier and think out of the box to meet mission requirements," said Company A, 2-20th's commander. "Most SF Guardsmen serve because they like the flexibility to have a civilian job, but do it because they want to be here too."

Editor's note: Due to the nature of Special Forces missions, names of Special Forces Soldiers are not made public.

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Freedom Salute Ceremony for Springfield-based Team that Deployed to Afghanistan; Aug. 16 ceremony recognizes Bilateral Embedded Staff Team A12

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Aug. 16 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony for the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A12 will be at 1 p.m. Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield, Illinois.

The BEST A12 Soldiers were mobilized in September 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan, returning home in May 2014.

The team trained with the Polish Land Forces before deploying. 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 embedded with Task Force White Eagle in Ghazni Province, the team enhanced the brigade's operational and logistical capabilities. The Soldiers developed and implemented the transition and retrograde plans for the base, transferring about 25 percent of the base to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). They also prepared the remaining portions for transfer to the ANSF as the U.S. continues to withdraw troops from the region. BEST A12 also recouped more than $80 million dollars of U.S. military equipment.

The team coordinated and executed the closing ceremonies for the Ghazni Islamic Cultural Celebration and the national elections, which saw a higher voter turnout and fewer incidents than expected.

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.

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Illinois National Guard's 404th Maneuvers Enhancement Brigade BEST Warrior Competition

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Marie Schult-Slosser 404th MEB PAO

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/11/2014)(readMedia)-- MARSEILLES, Ill. - The 44th Chemical Battalion in Galesburg, Illinois, swept the brigade level Soldier and noncommissioned officer (NCO) of the year competition at Marseilles Training Center, July 27. Sgt. Chris Morris of Robinson, Illinois, and Spc. Paul Born of Washington, Illinois, both chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists, won against six other competitors. Both Soldiers will compete against other brigade winners at the state competition in September.

"I was actually surprised that I won," said Born, after being named the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) Soldier of the Year. "I just wanted to prove to myself that I could compete with the best Soldiers in the state."

Eight Soldiers competed in 11 events during the Best Warrior Competition at Marseilles, events included weapons qualifications, physical fitness test, a five-mile ruck march, land navigation, a confidence course, a call for fire exercise; they also completed Army Soldier tasks and an Army knowledge board.

"My hats off to these guys to want to put themselves through this to represent their units and themselves and eventually the state," said Master Sgt. Jose Guerrero of Grayslake, Illinois, an infantryman and operations noncommissioned officer with the 404th MEB.

Guerrero is in charge of coordinating and setting up the competition and the events, a task he has been doing at the 404th MEB and other units for years.

For Morris, the NCO of the year, this is his third year competing and his second year to move up to the state level in this competition. In 2012, he not only made it to the state level but he went on to compete at regionals, where he was knocked out of the competition.

"Of all the years I've competed, this group of competitors is the best," said Morris. "There is always one serious guy, but this year everyone was working together, motivating each other and rooting for each other. The camaraderie was great."

The eight competitors, four in the lower enlisted category (private to specialist) and four in the NCO category (corporal and above), spent three grueling days getting to know one another as they competed in the events throughout the Marseilles Training Center.

"This encourages Soldiers and to strive to be among the best and encourage them to exceed the standards," said Sgt. Maj. Shane Lammers. "This also gives brigades and battalions the opportunity to highlight the wonderful Soldiers we have in our ranks."

Soldiers spent three days testing themselves with the grueling tasks and very little time in between for rest or reflection. The afternoon of the first day, after taking tests and doing a call for fire exercise they went all in for a physical fitness test followed by a semi-formal banquet, only to rise at 4:30 a.m. the next morning to hit the ground running in the ruck march event.

"I enjoy the competition. We get to do out of the ordinary stuff like ruck marching and obstacle courses," said Morris. He also said he would advise anyone who wants to participate in this competition to, "train hard, study hard and try in every event regardless of how you did on the previous event."

For his part, Born said it is important to get a good sponsor.

"My sponsor was with me at every event, motivating me and encouraging me."

In September, both Born and Morris will return to Marseilles to test themselves against the other Soldiers who made it to the state competition.

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The 2014 Adjutant General's rifle and pistol match

MARSEILLES, IL (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Soldiers from around the state met at the Illinois National Guard Marseilles Training Center in Marseilles, Illinois, to compete in The Adjutant General's (TAG) Rifle and Pistol Match, 8 through 10 August.

Every unit in the Illinois National Guard has the opportunity enter a team into the TAG Match, and more than 100 Soldiers participated in the 2014 marksmanship event.

Shooters are rated both as teams and individuals using the pistol and rifle. The shooters are also evaluated on a combined arms, 3-gun match in which the Soldiers fired the pistol, rifle and shotgun.

The top 20 individual shooters received the Governor's Twenty Tab, which they can wear on their uniforms. The top three teams and individuals of each event received a plaque to display their accomplishments.

Winners of the TAG Match may be selected to join the Illinois National Guard's Marksman Team. The teams must select two new shooters to compete in regional and national events annually.

Results of the 2014 ILARNG TAG Rifle and Pistol Match:

Overall Top Three Individuals:

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

2. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

Overall Individual Rifle

1. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

2. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

3. SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois; HHC, 232nd CSSB

Overall Individual Pistol

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

2. SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois; HHC 2/120 INF

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

Combined Arms (3-Gun)

1. SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; B Btry 2/123 FA

2. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

3. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

Overall Top Three Teams

1. HHC 2/130 INF; SSG Travis Wisely of West Frankfort, Illinois; SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois; SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois.

2. 106 AVN.; CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois, SSG Jason Jenkins of Montgomery, Illinois, SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois.

3. 1544th Trans Co; SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; SSG Brent Tripp of Warsaw, Illinois; SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois, SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois.

Top Pistol Team

1. HHC 2/130 INF; SSG Travis Wisely of West Frankfort, Illinois; SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois; SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois.

2. 1544th Trans Co; SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; SSG Brent Tripp of Warsaw, Illinois; SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois; SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois.

3. 106 AVN; CW4 Keith Koca of Custer, Park, Illinois; CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois; SSG Jason Jenkins of Montgomery, Illinois, SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois.

Top Rifle Team

1. 232nd CSSB; SSG Drew Geer, SGT Kraig Kennedy of New Berlin, Illinois, SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois, SPC Thomas Winlund of Mason City, Illinois.

2. B Btry 2/123 FA; SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; SGT Brandon Hornung of Utica, Illinois; SGT Eric Fowler of Lansing, Illinois; SPC Josh Webb of Lewiston, Illinois.

3. C Trp 106 CAV; SGT Scott Lange of Aurora, Illinois; SPC Ryan White of Macon, Illinois; SPC Aendri Decker of Montgomery, Illinois; PFC Steven McMahon of Streamwood, Illinois.

The Governor's Twenty

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF.

2. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co

4. SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; B Btry 2/123 FA

5. SGT Scott Lange of Aurora, Illinois, C Trp 106 CAV

6. CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois; 106 ANV.

7. SGT Brandon Hornung of Utica, Illinois, C Btry 2/123 FA

8. SGT Kevin Riggle of North Aurora, Illinois; 233rd MP's

9. SPC Aendri Decker of Montgomery, Illinois, C Trp 106 CAV

10. SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois, 106 AVN.

11. SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois; 232nd CSSB

12. SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois, HHC 2/130 INF.

13. 1LT Arthur Morris of Peoria, Illinois; A Co 33rd BSTB

14. SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co

15. SPC Josh Burns of St. Francisville, Illinois; 631st ENG

16. SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois, HHC 2/130 INF

17. SPC Josh Webb of Lewiston, Illinois, B Btry 2/123 FA

18. SGT Levi Worden, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

19. SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois, 1544th Trans Co

20. SSG Gino Maldonado of Aurora, Illinois, 233rd MP's