By Benjamin Yount
The Center Square
CHICAGO – Illinois is sending its largest contingent of National Guard troops in about a decade to Afghanistan.
Nearly 400 troops with the 178th Infantry Regiment left over the weekend. They will stop in Texas for training, then they will spend the next year or in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
It’s the first time Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has sent troops overseas. And it’s the largest deployment to Afghanistan for the Illinois Guard in almost 10 years.
“Serving as Commander and Chief of Illinois’ citizen soldiers is a humbling endeavor for me because you represent the very best of this state,” Pritzker said over the weekend. “The service you and your families give every day to the people of Illinois, that service to defend this nation, will always be a source of inspiration and respect.”
The 178th is mainly based in the Chicago area, but members from as far south as Joliet and as far north as Woodstock are also part of the regiment.
Lt. Co. Matt Garrison said the troops will be providing security for coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“Know that this unit and this battalion is ready to meet the mission in Afghanistan,” Garrison said. “We have the training, we have the right personnel, and we have the equipment to accomplish the mission.”
Garrison said the troops will spend about a year in Afghanistan.