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The Illinois National Guard and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs are taking precautions to limit the exposure to COVID-19; including temporary closures, curtailments and different work options for both federal and state employees.
“We are balancing the need to reduce risk with the need to continue operations that are vital to our state and federal missions,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “We will retain the core of what we do. We will respond to the needs of the state. We will continue to fight our nation’s wars. We have a no-fail contract with the citizens of Illinois and the United States of America. We have their sacred trust.”
Some state employees will continue to report to work, said Col. (retired) James Smith, the Chief of Staff for the Illinois Department of Military Affairs. “The balance of state employees will be sent home. Some will be able to telework, or work from home, while the others will be in an ‘at home with pay’ status.”
Others are being offered flex schedules and shift work. “Some of our employees, such as facility custodians and maintenance persons, are being asked to work at night to limit exposure. This minimizes the exposure between our employees and at the same time keeps our facilities maintained,” Smith said. State employees have been notified of the guidelines and requirements, he added.
“The Illinois Department of Military Affairs must function to support operations of the Illinois National Guard. If the Illinois National Guard is activated for any operation, employees of the Illinois Department of Military Affairs will respond to support that mission.”
Some federal employees are also authorized to telework, said Col. (retired) Joseph Schweickert, the Director of Human Resources for the Illinois National Guard. “We are authorizing telework for some positions to enable social distancing within the headquarters building. We are also working to approve flexible schedule requests to accommodate close-in facilities.”
Most employees are still reporting for work at this time to prepare forces for any potential domestic response requests, he added. “We have provisions to maintain essential personnel and increase the number of telework employees or send employees home in a paid leave status if an area is impacted.”
The Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy in Rantoul is also taking precautions in light of the national and state declared emergencies, according to Col. (retired) Michael Haerr, the Director of the academy for at-risk youth.
“We will be releasing Class 54 to allow the cadets to be with their families and to mitigate any potential spread of the virus,” he said. The academy has approximately 125 cadets. Class 54 began on Jan. 15 and was scheduled to graduate in June.
“We are not closing the Lincolns ChalleNGe Academy,” Smith said. “We are pausing Class 54 and will be sending the cadets home.” The class will be released on March 17. Additional information on Class 54 will be communicated to parents or guardians before March 30.
Guidance from the U.S. Army has impacted the Illinois Army National Guard’s 129th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), said Lt. Col. Danielle Price, the institute’s Officer in Charge. “We have approximately 30 Soldiers attending two military courses here,” Price said. “Soldiers attending one course are set to graduate at the end of March. The second course attendees are scheduled to graduate April 10. Those courses are continuing and Soldiers will be allowed to graduate and move back to their homes of record.”
But new courses at the institute are on hold until further guidance is received from the Army, Price said.
The Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield has closed its doors at least until the end of March, Smith said. The museum, which houses many important artifacts from the history of the Illinois National Guard, hosts thousands of visitors each month.
The Illinois National Guard has also suspended support to community relations events at least until the end of the month, perhaps longer. “The Air Force has suspended community relations activities through May 15. On the Army side, we expect a similar directive,” said Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, the Director of Public Affairs for the Illinois National Guard. “The support we give to community events is important, but more important is protecting the health of our troops, their families and the public.”