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NEWS | June 2, 2023

Officer who led the Illinois National Guard's Ukraine Training Mission Retires After 35 Years of Service

Col. Clayton Kuetemeyer of Champaign, who led the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training mission to Ukraine from 2020 to 2021 and then went on to play a key role in the planning of the National Guard Bureau’s future operations, has retired from the military after three and a half decades of service.

Kuetemeyer’s military retirement was held May 27 at the Illinois Army National Guard’s historic Urbana Armory with First Army’s Deputy Commanding General of Operations Maj. Gen. Mark Jackson presiding.

Kuetemeyer, an Infantry officer, served as the Commander of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), the state’s largest brigade with more than 3,000 Soldiers. As 33rd IBCT Commander, he led the brigade’s mission as the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine in 2020 to 2021 with approximately 165 Soldiers of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team forming the command element of the training group in Ukraine. The unit was responsible for training, advising and mentoring the Ukrainian cadre at Combat Training Center-Yavoriv, Ukraine to improve Ukraine’s training capacity and defense capabilities. As part of U.S. European Command operations, the unit worked hand-in-hand with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, providing training and doctrinal assistance to the Ukrainian military personnel.

“Service in the Illinois National Guard gives ordinary Illinoisans the opportunity to do extraordinary work. Aside from being military professionals, our Soldiers come from many different backgrounds – college students, teachers, farmers, police officers – with experience that complements their skills for military advising tasks,” Kuetemeyer said after the unit’s return in April 2021. “In Ukraine, they had unprecedented success in multinational partnering and training development, contributing to Ukraine’s capabilities, and making an important impact at the international level.”

After returning from Ukraine, Kuetemeyer led the National Guard Bureau Joint Staff’s Future Operations Division planning for disaster response, developing policies, ensuring future National Guard readiness within the global force management structure and advising senior National Guard leaders including Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Kuetemeyer has commanded at all levels up to brigade command and has held several key staff positions including Chief of the Illinois National Guard’s Joint Staff, the Illinois Army National Guard’s Plans, Operations and Training Officer (G-3), and the Deputy Command Inspector General for the Illinois National Guard. He also served as Commander of the  Illinois Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment and the Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion.

Kuetemeyer enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in 1988. He commissioned through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in 1993 and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in human resource education from the university in addition to a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. He a 2015 distinguished graduate of the War College. He also graduated from the Joint Task Force Commander’s Training Course and the Dual Status Commander’s Course. He has certifications in consultive facilitation and emergency management.

Kuetemeyer has deployed to Ukraine, Afghanistan and Kuwait and has also served in Poland and Bulgaria. Previous deployments include Afghanistan in 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with Task Force White Eagle and the 17th Mechanized Brigade of the Polish Land Forces, and Kuwait in 2000 in support of Operation Desert Spring as Commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment.

Upon retirement he was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. Kuetemeyer’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters; Army Commendation Medal with six oak leaf clusters; Army Achievement Medal with five oak leaf clusters; Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal with five oak leaf clusters; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star; Silver Medal of the Polish Army; Ukrainian Armed Forces Medal; NATO Medal; Illinois Distinguished Service Medal; Illinois Lincoln Medal of Freedom; Recruiting and Retention Badge; and the Air Assault Badge. He was a 2002 national recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.

Kuetemeyer and his spouse, Vicki, have returned to live in their hometown of Champaign after his retirement from the U.S. Army and Army National Guard.