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Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Charles Chinski of Bourbonnais, Illinois, retired after 29 years of military service during an Oct. 16 ceremony at the Illinois National Guard’s Northwest Armory in Chicago.
Chinski enlisted in the Army in 1993 and served as an infantryman at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii until 1996. After three and a half years out of military service, Chinski joined the Illinois Army National Guard in December 2000.
“I could not get the desire to put the boots back on out of my system,” said Chinski. “It was an easy decision.”
Over the next 10 years Chinski deployed to Germany in 2002 in support of Task Force Santa Fe; to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 2004 in support of Operation Cajun Fury; and to Afghanistan in 2008 in support of Task Force Bayonet.
While Chinski laments he missed the birth of his first child during his 2002 deployment with the Illinois Army National Guard, he said his fellow Soldiers are his second family.
“I have had several excellent mentors,” said Chinski. “And the comradery from superiors, peers, and subordinates alike, they are all my brothers and sisters.”
Chinski became a full-time Soldier once again in 2008 in the Active Guard Reserves, or AGR, program, where he served as the training noncommissioned officer for Company C, 1st Battalion of the 178th Infantry Regiment in Kankakee. Later he served as the readiness noncommissioned officer for the unit.
Chinski said his mentors, and peers in the AGR program, helped him succeed.
“Far too many to name,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, we all came together to support each other and take care of Soldiers.”
As he looks back on his career, Chinski said he is proud to have served through a time where the National Guard fundamentally changed from a strategic reserve to an operational force.
“We proved to be a vital, fighting, force multiplier to the active Army,” he said.
Beyond the comradery, Chinski said the Illinois Army National Guard is a rewarding career for both full-time and part-time Soldiers.
“Our technology keeps advancing,” he said. “Opportunities for Soldiers to get trained in multiple Military Occupational Specialties, promotions, retention bonuses are all great for Soldiers and their careers. Oh, and there is the college money.”
Chinski’s advises younger Soldiers with their career ahead of them to take care of one another.
“Mental health, physical health and spiritual health go hand in hand,” he said. “Seeking help is not a weakness. It is the bravest, strongest thing you can do.”