That “two weeks a year” part of a National Guard commitment can include a trip to Europe.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army commander there, says many Illinoisans are taking part. “Instead of going to, say, Camp Atterbury in Indiana, the unit comes over to Europe and meets its annual training requirement … in, frankly, a more realistic environment, because they're with allies from (up to) six other countries,” he says.

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For one thing, there's Exercise Anaconda, a biennial event in which Poland demonstrates its deterrence against Russia. “We'll have almost 050 soldiers from Illinois – engineers, chemical, and signal units from Chicago, Macomb, and Riverside,” he says. “We'll also have soldiers from Urbana participate in an exercise in the Baltic region.”

The general spoke from his base in Germany on a conference call with Illinois reporters.


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