Chicago-based Illinois National Guard unit mobilizes for Iraq
CHICAGO - A mobilization ceremony for approximately 45 Soldiers of the Illinois Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 108th Sustainment Brigade based in Chicago, was held Nov. 3 at the unit's armory, 1551 N. Kedzie Ave.
The Soldiers of the 108th will deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
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"We will be tasked with advising, assisting and equipping the Iraqi Army to contribute to a safe and secure environment across the entire country of Iraq," said Col. Justin Osberg of Geneva, Illinois.
"This is an important mission because it comes when the Iraqi military is focused on resetting and repairing their equipment in the wake of operations to defeat ISIS."
Osberg deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and Iraq in 2008. He said he is interested to see how Iraq has changed in 10 years.
"I was fortunate to be part of the 108th deployment to Iraq in 2008 on a logistical advise and assist mission. It will be exciting to see the amazing progress the Iraqi Army has made over the last 10 years."
The unit will train for a brief time at Fort Hood, Texas, before deploying overseas in late 2018.
The 108th has many Veterans who have deployed multiple times, helping provide experience and mentoring opportunities.
This deployment will be the fifth overseas tour for two 108th Soldiers. Five Soldiers are leaving their family for the fourth time in their career. Eight Soldiers will be deploying for the third time, while 10 Soldiers will be serving on their second overseas mission. Less than half of the team will be mobilizing for the first time in their career.
The Senior Enlisted Leader of the unit has deployed four times. Command Sgt. Maj. Lester Edwards of Mechanicsburg, Ill., deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. Before Afghanistan, Edwards spent a total of 33 months in Iraq. Edwards said the Middle Eastern country changed each time he was there in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
"This will be my fifth deployment and my fourth to Iraq," Edwards said. "My first mobilization was to Iraq as the command sergeant major for the 232nd Combat Service Support Battalion based in Springfield in 2004. Now, some 14 to 15 years later, I find myself going back, and in a strange way I am looking forward to it."
Edwards is interested to see how Iraq has progressed over the last decade.
"This mission will be similar to my third deployment to Iraq with the 108th Sustainment Brigade," Edwards said. "That mission was an advise and assist mission as well. It is not often that a Soldier has the opportunity to see what kind of difference has been made over these spans of time."
The 108th is based in Chicago, but the Soldiers are from all parts of Illinois including Chatham, Springfield, Litchfield, Streator, Kewanee, Champaign and multiple communities around Chicago.
"Our Soldiers and Airmen continue to train and deploy around the globe to ensure our country is safe from our enemies and from terrorism," said Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "These Soldiers, with support from their families, employers, and communities, will put their personal lives on hold for the next year to fulfill a promise they made to defend this country."
The unit is expected to be deployed for approximately nine months, returning late summer 2019.
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