A mobilization ceremony was held at the Illinois Military Academy on Camp Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois May 10 for six Soldiers who will deploy to Afghanistan as part of Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A23. This unit’s unique mission will allow them to deploy side-by-side with their Polish counterparts. The Soldiers are from various towns in central Illinois. They were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.
As part of the deployment supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the team will assist the Polish Military Contingent in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In partnership with allied and coalition forces, BEST A23 will train, advise and assist the institutions within the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior.
“For 5 Iraq rotations and 24 Afghanistan rotations, we have sent our BEST,” Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson, Assistant Adjutant General – Army said to the Soldiers, family and friends in attendance at the ceremony. “During that time, the Polish military has deployed more than 32,000 Soldiers. That means the Soldiers you see before you today, and their predecessors, and the families of these few Soldiers, have sacrificed so other American families did not have to send their beloved Warriors to war.”
Jackson told the families of the deploying soldiers they are part of something bigger than themselves and they deserve many thanks for supporting their Soldiers.
“I’d like to thank the families of the Soldiers deploying today,” said Lt. Col. Michael A. Legler, Commander, BEST A23. “For my family, this is the third time I’ve deployed. I appreciate their support throughout my military career. I have an appreciation for what our families go through. Thank you to the families for allowing me to lead your Soldiers. I couldn’t ask for a better group of Soldiers.”
In addition to the families, Legler extended his appreciation to the Soldiers and civilians working at Camp Lincoln.
“To you, I say thank you for your support,” said Legler. “Headquarters has been tremendously supportive. This is an exciting time, but it will be a time of transition for both our Soldiers and our families. You will get through it. The first month will be the toughest but you’ll develop a pattern and then when November gets here, you’ll start counting down the days before we’ll be back home.”
The team is expected to return to Illinois in the winter of 2019.
The year 2019 marks the 26th anniversary of the partnership between the Illinois National Guard and Poland. Established in 1993, it has been the most successful State Partnership in the nation, helping Poland emerge from the Warsaw Pact to become a member of NATO and one of the United States’ staunchest allies. In addition, Illinois Army National Guard troops have co-deployed with Poland on every Polish rotation to Iraq since 2003.