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SPRINGFIELD – Governor JB Pritzker announced today that the Illinois Army National Guard is one of only eight states selected for an Intelligence and Electronic Warfare & Sensors (IEWS) Battalion as part of the U.S. Army's future investment plans. The unit will include nearly 200 highly skilled technology positions in Illinois and the U.S. Army will invest multi-millions of dollars in the unit’s high-tech infrastructure, equipment and training. The unit is slated for activation in 2027, with the Illinois Army National Guard beginning to start filling in positions in 2025.
“Our Illinois National Guard is the best of the best, and this federal investment is just the latest example of their leadership at home and abroad,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Technical capability is a key component of 21st century national defense, and I have no doubt that the Illinois National Guard will continue to lead in this space for years to come.”
“The IEWS battalion brings in a whole array of multi-disciplinary specialties – cyber experts, geospatial specialists, intelligence and counter-intelligence analysts, linguists as well as satellite and communications experts, to name just a few. These experts analyze data across the land, air, sea, space and cyber domains putting together the pieces of the puzzle to give the division commander a full picture of the battlespace,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard (ILNG). “Having many of these specialties within the Illinois National Guard can also be extremely useful in our domestic missions.”
The new unit is slated to be stationed within the Illinois Army National Guard’s historic General Richard L. Jones Armory next to Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side. The ILNG is requesting federal support for a significant modernization and renovation project for the armory. The modernization of the General Jones Armory, named for one of the Guard’s most prominent African American leaders and a former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, will save millions in long-term facilities construction costs.
“This battalion will provide new opportunities for members of the Illinois Army National Guard and benefit our long-term national defense strategy,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “This selection is a testament to the incredible work ethic of the brave men and women of the Illinois Army National Guard and the first-rate talent pool and infrastructure that Illinois offers, including the historic General Richard L. Jones Armory on Chicago's South Side.”
“I’m pleased the U.S. Army selected the Illinois National Guard for an Intelligence and Electronic Warfare & Sensors Battalion, bringing hundreds of high-skilled jobs to the state,” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said. “The modernization efforts for our armed forces and investing in technology is critical to our military readiness, and I’m proud to see these efforts in Illinois. I’ve long supported modernization at General Jones Armory and I’m glad the Army sees the potential in Illinois and at this location.”
“General Jones Armory is an important part of Hyde Park and has meant so much to our South Side community, but the facility has been underutilized for years,” said Congressman Bobby L. Rush. “I am thrilled that this new announcement will put the Illinois National Guard and General Jones Armory on the cutting edge of American high-tech intelligence and national defense strategies. As a proud Army veteran and an even prouder South Sider, I am excited about this investment and the local jobs it will bring to our community, and I look forward to continuing to push for needed improvements to the General Jones Armory in Congress.”
The IEWS Battalion is a critical component of national defense strategy and is designed to provide near real-time situational understanding to an Army division commander on the modern battlefield. It is part of the Department of Defense’s strategy to modernize and develop units which ensure superiority over potential “near-peer” adversaries. The Illinois IEWS battalion’s war-time mission will be to support the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division.
For example, geospatial specialists could help analyze road or bridge damage in the event of an earthquake. The satellite and communications experts can help analyze the extent of damage caused by a natural or manmade disaster and assist in re-establishing lines of communication within the damaged areas. The cyber experts can add to the state’s response capabilities in the event of a cyber-attack.
Much of the reason Illinois was chosen was because of its proven ability to recruit, develop, and retain high-quality Soldiers from the state’s talent base, which includes some of the nation’s top state and private colleges and universities as well as a burgeoning high-tech sector, top-flight innovation incubators and a well-established manufacturing base. The battalion will help Illinoisans entering the National Guard develop high-tech skills and achieve security clearances that will benefit them throughout their career in the ILNG and beyond.