Ill. national guard prepares to mobilize

By Caroline Kim

Several hundred guardsmen from two Illinois Army National Guard units are scheduled to be deployed at the start of the new year.

According to an Illinois Army National Guard press release, about 450 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion’s 130th Infantry Regiment and 140 soldiers from Company A of the 133rd Signal Battalion of Crestwood are being called up for active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some of the troops are from the Urbana and Danville units.

The soldiers might serve up to 18 months of active duty. The length of their deployment might be extended depending on the discretion of the Secretary of Defense.

Maj. Tim Franklin, public affairs officer for the Illinois Army National Guard, said the commander in Iraq will decide the soldiers’ missions.

Franklin said the Department of the Army notified the unit commanders the day after Thanksgiving about the mobilization.

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    He said the guardsmen are ready to go but have mixed emotions.

    “On the one hand, they signed up to do a job,” Franklin said. “On the other hand, it’s a hardship on their family, employers and loved ones.”

    The press release stated that the soldiers have been preparing to leave. The preparation includes record checks, immunizations, equipment issue, physical and family support.

    Once the soldiers leave Illinois, they will first report to Fort Stewart, Ga., to receive more training.

    Capt. Leyland Torres, battalion adjutant of the 130th Infantry, said the National Guard can be called upon by the state or the federal government.

    “As an army unit, our job is to work on basic soldier skills from basic rifle marksmanship to first aid,” Torres said. “Some of our medical personnel have gone through extensive training as well.”

    Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas said in a press release that the mobilization of these units will not affect the Illinois Army National Guard’s ability to respond to potential state emergencies or possible homeland-defense deterrence missions.

    “At any given time, we have had between 10 to 25 percent of our total Army Guard forces mobilized for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom,” Thomas said in the press release. “That means the remaining 75 to 90 percent of our total capability is still available for other prospective missions here at home or abroad.”

    When Torres found out about the mobilization, he said he first thought of the training that would be involved as well as what he needs to do to make sure his soldiers are ready.

    Torres said his wife was shocked when she found out about his deployment, but has been very supportive of the decision.

    “It can be a very long time, and you just go along with your responsibilities and duties,” Torres said. “Time can go by … I know some of the things that I’ll be working on will keep me going.”

    Staff Sgt. Michael Brown of the Headquarters Company in the 130th Infantry said it will be hard to leave his wife and 2-year-old daughter. But, he said, he is prepared to go.

    “It’s something you do because it’s your job, and you’re doing your duty,” Brown said. “Part of the job is to go wherever they send you.”

    Sgt. Greg Storm of the Delta Company of the 130th Infantry said he is confident of the guardsmen’s abilities.

    “We’re ready to do whatever they ask us,” Storm said.

    Sgt. Mike Schuler of the Delta Company of the 130th Infantry said he feels good about the mobilization. He said his family was a little apprehensive at first, but they are proud of him and the other soldiers.

    “Everybody’s proud of what we’ve been doing,” Schuler said. “I thank everybody. The community has been very helpful with donations.”

    Schuler also said letters and care packages make a difference.

    “Letters and care packages are always appreciated,” Schuler said.