To Afghanistan

Illinois National Guard Combat Team on the way

The staged deployment of the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan is almost complete.

"The Guard soldiers at Ft. Bragg are the main body of a 2,700-strong force of Illinois Guardsmen and are nearly done with a 57-day training cycle," the Tribunereports. "They leave in December, when they will join 65,000 American and NATO forces battling Al Qaeda and a resurgent Taliban."

The combat team - made up of soldiers from about 30 units around the state - has been assigned to train Afghanistan National Army and police personnel.

Another estimated 80 Illinois National Guard soldiers of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Battalion, is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in early January, according to Guard officials.

Last week, a deployment ceremony was held in Peoria for the aviation battalion, which is part of a heavy lift helicopter company. 

“In August the unit supported Hurricane Gustav relief operations in Louisiana," Maj. Gen. William Enyart, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said in a statement. " Now these Soldiers are preparing for a tour in the Middle East. It continues to prove how valuable Illinois National Guard Soldiers are across the globe."

Another other helicopter unit from Peoria, the 106th Aviation, was sent in March to Kosovo to help with international peacekeeping efforts, according to the Peoria Journal-Star.

"The state is in the midst of its largest guard deployment since World War II, sending to Afghanistan one in every four citizen soldiers in the Illinois Guard," the Tribunesays.

The deployment comes with a price. On Oct. 27, Sgt. Kevin Grieco, 35, of Bartlett, was killed in action in Afghanistan, becoming the Illinois National Guard's 19th casualty in Afghanistan and Iraq operations. Greico was an Illinois Army National Guard Soldier assigned to Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery of Sycamore, Ill.

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