CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today held a sendoff ceremony for nearly 700 Illinois National Guardsmen called to duty overseas by President Bush. The members of the 66th Infantry Brigade are being called to active duty as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom” and will provide force protection and security at installations throughout Europe.
“The President has called you to duty, and without hesitation you have answered the call like so many patriots before you,” Gov. Ryan said. “You are men and women who believe so strongly in your country, your freedoms and the American way of life, you willingly take up arms to defend your country.”
The 66th Infantry Brigade, with a total personnel strength of approximately 2,900 soldiers, has units located throughout Illinois. Members of the 66th Infantry Brigade being called to active duty will be assigned to U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) and will command Task Force Santa Fe, a force of nearly 2,100 National Guard soldiers from Kansas, Kentucky and Illinois, with the bulk of the force made up of soldiers from Illinois.
“This activation is the largest mobilization of Illinois Army National Guard personnel since the Korean War,” said Major General David Harris, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “In addition to basic infantry skills, the soldiers are trained in
a variety of tasks and I am confident they will handle this mission in an outstanding
The soldiers of the 66th Brigade will provide the task force headquarters, which is the command and control element, as well as other specialized personnel, such as Chaplains and Judge Advocates General. This call to active duty is part of the partial mobilization authorized by President Bush following the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Today’s departure of members of the 66th Brigade is the first of several that will take place over the next few weeks. In total, more than 1,300 Illinois National Guardsmen will be deployed in support of US Army Europe as part of the nation’s war against terrorism.
“You are truly citizen soldiers, sons and daughters of Illinois,” Gov. Ryan said. “All of us are thankful for your sacrifices. It’s not easy leaving your homes and your families behind, but it is a sacrifice you make in the name of freedom, to ensure your sons and daughters and neighbors can live without fear.”
Members of the 66th are initially being mobilized for up to 270 days. They are going first to Fort Stewart, Georgia, their mobilization site, to prepare for deployment to Europe.