By Barbara Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office
Approximately 400 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers who served in the U.S. Central Command Area of responsibility returned home this weekend.
The 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Chicago, with companies in Chicago, Bartonville, Elgin, Kankakee, and Woodstock, mobilized in July in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker welcomed the battalion home in his press conference today. The Governor praised the “fundamental strength” of the battalion’s Soldiers and expressed his “deepest reverence and gratitude” to the 13,000 women and men of Illinois National Guard. He said the battalion added to a proud history that included the famous all African-American “Fighting” 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment.
Company A, based in Bartonville, and Company C, based in Kankakee, arrived at the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport Friday, April 17. Company A was released to their families in Peoria and Company C was bussed to Kankakee where they met their families.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, based in Chicago, Company B, based in Elgin, and Company D, based in Woodstock, landed at O'Hare International Airport Sunday, April 19. The Soldiers were bussed to the North Riverside Armory in Chicago, where they met their families.
“We are very proud of these Soldiers who performed difficult combat missions in austere conditions,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “In other days we would have a big welcome home ceremony with crowds of families, veterans and other supporters. During the pandemic, we brought them home quietly to protect their safety and the safety of the public. That in no way diminishes our gratitude to these great women and men.”
While deployed to Afghanistan, the 1-178th Infantry Battalion served as part of Task Force Southeast in Paktiya and Logar Provinces from September to December and as part of Task Force Southwest in Helmand Province from December to March, providing base defense and area security.
After arriving at the Combined Joint Operating Area-Afghanistan, the battalion separated across two locations in Task Force Southeast.
"Three companies were assigned to Advising Platform Lightning to provide base defense and local security mission support and augment the Task Force Southeast Commanding General staff," said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, the battalion commanding officer said. "The remaining units provided daily 24-hour coverage of the joint operations center."
Four months into the deployment, the battalion moved to Task Force Southwest, according to Garrison.
"While part of Task Force Southwest, the 1-178th Infantry Battalion executed daily security missions outside the wire and fire missions in support of maneuver elements," Garrison said. "We successfully executed complex missions to meet the U.S. Forces Afghanistan Commander, General Miller's, intent to secure coalition forces in three different provinces."
According to Garrison, the battalion conducted more than 95 security patrol missions in two different provinces and more than 30 Advisor Security missions in multiple provinces throughout Afghanistan.
"Our Soldiers were present for the two historical milestones, both the Afghanistan national elections in September and the Reduction in Violence Agreement earlier this year. The battalion Soldiers and leaders conducted an exceptional job under very austere conditions" Garrison said.
According to the battalion commander, Soldiers received various awards, including Bronze Star Medals, Meritorious Service Medals, Army Commendation Medals with combat device, Army Achievement Medals with combat device, Purple Hearts, Combat Infantry Badges, Combat Action Badges and Combat Medic Badges.
In addition, the 1-178th Infantry Battalion has was recommended for the prestigious Meritorious Unit Citation.
Each unit will hold an official Welcome Home Ceremony at a later date.