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NEWS | June 10, 2024

Thank You for Your Amazing Work and Making History

To the Soldiers, Airmen and Civilian employees of the Illinois National Guard - As I close out the last chapter of my military career, I am overwhelmed with all the amazing letters, e-mails, text messages, phone calls, and social media posts of support and accolades after the announcement of my retirement. It has truly been humbling. Most of all, I want to thank you, the men and women of the Illinois National Guard for the numerous successes over the last five plus years during my term as the commander of the Illinois National Guard. There were many obstacles to overcome and hard choices to make during the last five years as we faced historic challenges from a global pandemic to civil disturbances, to securing the Capital, to more than 4,800 deployments all over the world. Even while faced with these challenges, we moved the organization forward. You focused on Readiness, Innovation, and People and made the Illinois National Guard more effective at defending our communities, our state, and our nation. You can be justifiably proud. I know I am proud of you and what we have accomplished together. Through incredible teamwork, we have been successful even through the most challenging times. This work will continue. The journey never ends, and we are never complete. It has been my greatest honor to lead this amazing organization of 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen, in addition to our full-time civilian force and families of the Illinois National Guard. During my tenure as TAG, this organization deployed more than 4,800 Soldiers and Airmen all around the world. As I like to remind those around the state during speaking events, these are service members who put their daily lives on hold leaving work and families and gear up to deploy around the world into harm’s way for up to a year.

Outside of our military community, so few really understand the sacrifice. Our Soldiers and Airmen are part of the 1 percent of the U.S. Population that wear the uniform. They are the 1 percent who serve to include the active duty, Guard and Reserve. The 1 percent who raise their right hand and swear an allegiance to this country, and they are part of the 1 percent that deploy into harm’s way to protect the 99 percent. If you are a National Guard Citizen Soldier and Airmen, you are also protecting your neighbors in your State. They did this heroically. During my tenure we saw the most significant increase in the use of the Illinois National Guard ever. This included the COVID-19 response where our Soldiers and Airmen went out when everyone else went home to shelter in place. Our Illinois National Guard members also responded to civil disturbance missions five times within Illinois. This had not occurred in Illinois since 1968. Then there was the mission I thought I would never see. Our Soldiers and Airmen stood on the steps of the National Capital to protect it after January 6th. More than 5,600 Soldiers and Airmen mobilized for more than 500,000 days to support their state over the last five years. The Illinois National Guard and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs does even more than respond to domestic emergencies and train, equip, and deploy Soldiers and Airmen to support our nation’s defense. Last year we celebrated our 30th Anniversary of Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy and graduated our 16,000th graduate from the program. These are young men and women who grew up in some very challenging environments, but who volunteered for this rigorous 22-week in residents’ program because they want to achieve more in life. Our Counterdrug Program continues to excel. Last year alone the Counterdrug Program worked with partner agencies to pull more than $307 million in illegal drugs off the streets. Our 5th Civil Support Team continued to work with local, national, and international partners to counter biological, chemical, and radiological threats. We have also stood up the Integrative Prevention Program to help address the issues of sexual assault and harassment, drug abuse, suicide, domestic violence, and other behavioral health issues. The initial results are promising, and we owe it to our service members and families to continue to work on these issues. We also owe it to our fallen heroes to care for our Soldiers, Airmen, and their families. Our Gold Star Families hold a special place in my heart. These family members gave the ultimate sacrifice with the loss of their loved ones. Since 9-11 we have lost 34 Illinois National Guard Sons and Daughters, Fathers and Mothers, Brothers and Sisters, overseas. These families have given the ultimate sacrifice and have earned our highest respect and praise. As I leave command, I am very optimistic about the future of the Illinois National Guard. Maj. Gen. Rodney Boyd is an excellent leader, and he will continue to move the organization forward with the help of our amazing leadership team and the servicemembers in the formation. The Illinois National Guard will continue to be Always Ready, Always There just as we have been for the last 300 years. God Bless & God Speed