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NEWS | June 30, 2020

Specialized Illinois Army National Guard Unit Returns from Deployment

Six Soldiers who deployed in November as part of Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A24 returned home earlier this past month. 

 BEST A24 deployed to the U.S. Central Command area in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, arriving in theater days prior to Thanksgiving 2019. 

The Soldiers are from various communities in Illinois, including Springfield, Plainfield, Dunlap and North Aurora, Illinois. One Illinois Army National Guard Soldier with the team resides in Davenport, Iowa.  The Soldiers were selected for the mission based on their training and skills. 

“These Soldiers demonstrated the excellence and professionalism of the Illinois National Guard and helped strengthen our already close ties with the Polish military,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “I could not be more proud of the great work of our Soldiers and Airmen both here in Illinois and overseas.”

As part of the deployment, the team assisted approximately 400 Soldiers with the Polish Military Contingent (PMC) dispersed to 12 military bases in the region. In partnership with allied and coalition forces, BEST A24’s mission was to train and advise Afghan forces and support the PMC.

BEST A24 supported the Polish military with planning and executing countless missions, reducing the capabilities of enemy forces. 

Lt. Col. Eric Smith of Springfield, Illinois, BEST A24 Commander, said one of the more important accomplishments of his team was nurturing relationships with our allies.

“We continued to build upon our strong relationship with the Polish military,” said Smith. “Just as important, though, were the relationships we built and helped maintain with other U.S. and Coalition forces in the region, along with contractors working in our area of responsibility.  Some of the plans and policies we established will have impacts across the country for years to come.”

During their seven-month deployment, BEST A24 members assisted Polish Soldiers in successful completion of more than 200 combat and security missions as well as numerous Train, Advise and Assist operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area.

The Illinois National Guard has had a State Partnership Program with the Polish military since in 1993. The State Partnership Program between the Illinois National Guard and Poland has been the most successful State Partnership in the nation, helping Poland emerge from the Warsaw Pact to become a member of NATO and one of the United States’ staunchest allies. In addition, Illinois Army National Guard troops have co-deployed with Poland on every Polish rotation to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.