Illinois National Guard Aviation Unit Assists at Southern Border

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SPRINGFIELD – Over twenty Illinois National Guard aviators, aircraft mechanics and support personnel are being deployed to the southern border of Texas to provide support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

The unit will be aiding those at the border in their fight against drug smuggling and human trafficking. Most of the soldiers being deployed are from Detachment 1, Company B, 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation Regiment, based in Decatur, Illinois. They will serve for six months on this mission, known as Operation Phalanx II.

Members of the group will be taking their own aircraft on the mission. They will be joining National Guard units from numerous states in the overall mission.

Colonel Randy Sikowski of Riverton, Illinois explains this no less important than serving in a combat zone.

“This mission is supporting the citizens along our southwest border in a multi-layered approach with customs and border patrol agents to combat illegal trafficking of people, drugs, weapons and money. This is a very important mission for the United States,” Sikowski says.

The group is composed of soldiers of varying levels of experience.  The detachment's commander U.S. Army Captain Mike Verdun of Pontiac, Illinois says they will be working for hours in the Texas heat.  He believes this mission will be effective in bringing the soldiers together as an effective unit.

“I think our youngest soldier has been in about two years, but on drill weekend everyone works hard and knows their jobs. This will be good to get them out there and do it in a real-world scenario outside of a flight facility and training scenarios,” Verdun explains.

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