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The Illinois National Guard ended its winter weather response operations Feb. 4.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the approximately 110 Soldiers and 20 Airmen Feb. 1 to team with the Illinois State Police (ISP) to assist stranded motorists in the areas they were assigned.
“The Soldiers and Airmen activated for this mission lived up to our motto of Always Ready, Always There,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “They left their homes and civilian jobs in the face of severe winter weather to help our state partners assist men and women stranded on Illinois highways. They are the epitome of Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen.”
During the activation, the Soldiers and Airmen conducted 40 missions alongside the Illinois State Police. The seven winter weather response teams inspected 82 cars, transported or otherwise assisted 88 individuals and traveled a total of 15,088 miles throughout their mission locations.
The Illinois Army National Guard’s (ILARNG) 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s six winter weather platoons (WWP) were equipped with six High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and one Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMMT) Wrecker. The winter weather platoons (WWP) from the 766th Brigade Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Decatur, with units based in Bloomington, Urbana and Lawrenceville, were assigned to the Litchfield, Springfield, and Pittsfield areas. The WWPs from Troop A, 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, based in Pontiac, were assigned to the Kankakee and Champaign areas. The WWP from Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion, based in Champaign, was assigned to the Mattoon area.
“Our mission was to assist the Illinois State Police with evacuating motorists stuck in snow and marking the vehicles as empty,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mary Joan Patten, of Caledonia, Wisconsin, non-commissioned officer in charge of the ILARNG WWP assigned to the Pittsfield, Illinois area.
Patten said her team was put in an “on call” status when they arrived in the Pittsfield area and stood ready to render assistance if the ISP needed.
“It’s impossible to predict what is going to happen on each mission. The Illinois State Police District 20 was very prepared for the snow storm with ample officers and vehicles,” Patten said. “We were proud to be able to offer assistance if needed to our home state.”
The Illinois Air National Guard’s 182nd Airlift Wing, based in Peoria, was equipped with six HMMWVs and assigned to the Bloomington and Peoria areas.
Maj. Joseph Pingley, of East Peoria, officer in charge of the ILANG winter weather response team and commander of the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron, based in Peoria said the Air Guard team exceled at operating under less than ideal conditions.
“Our 18-Airmen team drove more than 3,500 miles, worked 696 man-hours, operated 348 vehicle hours, responded to 42 ISP tasks and provided transport to 19 civilians,” he said. “This was accomplished without a single injury to our members or damage to any of our equipment.”
Pingley’s teams were sent by the ISP to assist stranded motorists in addition to patrolling the highways looking for unreported stranded motorists.
“We would ensure the motorists were not injured then offer rides to warming locations, mark the vehicles as being searched and then would call in the information to the ISP,” he said.
He said the teams also provided traffic control a couple of times when semi-trucks blocked the roadway until a wrecker cleared the roadway.