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The Illinois Army National Guard’s 709th Medical Company Area Support (MCAS), based in Bartonville, received a rousing farewell at a deployment ceremony Aug. 6 at the Monroe Elementary School in Peoria, as approximately 55 Soldiers prepare to head to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
Hundreds of families and friends were joined by state and local leaders and leaders from the Illinois National Guard for the beginning of another chapter in the history of the 709th MCAS.
The 709th MCAS is deploying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and will be responsible for medical support of service members, contractors, coalition forces and local nationals in four countries across five locations.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker thanked the families, friends, and employers of the deploying Soldiers.
“The Illinois National Guard could not accomplish its missions, from combat missions to emergency response missions, without your sacrifice,” Pritzker said. “Our state is eternally grateful.”
Pritzker said serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the Illinois National Guard is a humbling experience.
“You represent the very best of this state,” he said. “The Illinois National Guard is a force of ordinary citizens committed to doing extraordinary things. All the strength of the people of Illinois is standing with you.”
Pritzker ended his brief remarks with three simple words. “God Speed Soldiers,” he said.
He presented an Illinois state flag to Maj. Karen Hernandez, 709th MCAS commander. The flag will be flown by the unit during the deployment.
Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard echoed Pritzker’s comments.
“The true VIPS in this room today are this group of Soldiers,” he said. “The rest of us are here to recognize the sacrifices they’re making.”
Neely said the deployment will be difficult and a challenge, but the 709th Soldiers are very prepared for the mission.
“Each of you should be very proud. You answered the call to service,” he said. “You epitomize the value of the Minuteman with your commitment to service when your community calls, your state calls, and your country calls.”
Neely thanked the families of the deploying Soldiers.
“We cannot do our missions without our families,” he said. “You may not wear the uniform, but you are part of the team.”
Brig. Gen. Rodney Boyd, Assistant Adjutant General – Army and Commander of the Illinois Army National Guard told friends and families the Soldiers have worked hard the past six months preparing for the deployment.
He challenged the 709th Soldiers to do three things while deployed – take care of each other, do something you have always wanted to do but didn’t have the time, and lastly, keep the lines of communications open to their families.
“This is what we do, this is why we wear the uniform,” Boyd said of the deployment. “I’m so very proud of each of you.”
The 709th MCAS last deployed in 2011 to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, supporting the transition from the combat operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom to the new phase supporting the responsible drawdown of U.S. and coalition military forces.