NEWS | July 7, 2020

Unprecedented Year for the Illinois National Guard

The Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, will be available to discuss what has been an unprecedented year for the Illinois National Guard and its 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen on July 9.

            “The past year has been like no other, with the Illinois National Guard showcasing our capabilities and value to our communities, our state and our nation,” Neely said.

The Illinois National Guard has had a historic year including fighting record flooding, helping secure two elections from cyberattack, helping prevent flooding (again), supporting law enforcement during civil unrest after the death of George Floyd, and fighting against a world-wide pandemic.

            The COVID-19 response missions have kept the Illinois National Guard especially busy. The Illinois National Guard has been actively engaged in fighting COVID-19 since March. During this time, it has manned testing sites throughout the state, supported medical operations in three different prisons, set up alternate care facilities at McCormick Place and other sites, supported multiple alternate housing sites, provided mortuary affairs support to Cook County, provided hospital screening operations across the state, provided medical, logistics and geo-spacial planners to the state emergency efforts, assisted county health departments in collecting information on medical capabilities and supplies, helped screen employees at two Developmental Centers, flew specialized medical tents from the Oregon manufacturer to Chicago, ran medical and emergency supply warehouse operations in two locations, set up a force protection team to ensure the health of our troops and their families, provided mobile testing support at about a dozen long-term care facilities, and provided command and control of hundreds of troops responding to this unprecedented mission.

        In addition, the Illinois National Guard continues to deploy hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen overseas. There are more than 1,000 Illinois National Guard women and men deployed now.

            The extended use of the Illinois National Guard has brought up many interesting topics that Brig. Gen. Neely is able to discuss.

            For example:

  • The role of the Illinois National Guard in law enforcement support:

        Illinois used its National Guard forces in the law enforcement support missions in a much more subdued way, less aggressive way. This was a great model for how to use National Guard to support law enforcement in a nonaggressive manner. Law enforcement was used for law enforcement, the National Guard was used in a supporting role securing street closures, controlling traffic flow and providing security at locations that had been targeted by looters and vandals. This freed up more law enforcement officers.

  • Diversity issues within the Illinois National Guard:

        The Illinois National Guard was already looking at ourselves and the diversity within our ranks and more importantly within our leadership. This is a strategic priority and will strengthen the organization as a whole. Our lower ranks are a pretty good reflection of the communities where they are based, but as you go up in rank, the organization becomes more and more white male.

  • The importance of the Illinois National Guard staying out of partisan politics:

        We serve all the people of Illinois and the nation.  The fight against racism, sexism or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, etc. are NOT partisan politics. This is about human rights.

  • The use of the Illinois National Guard in civil operations.

        The National Guard is a military organization, but we have many capabilities that can be used in many ways outside of military operations. The state mission is what makes the National Guard unique.