About 155 members of the Illinois Army National Guard returned home to a warm welcome today at the Peoria Air National Guard Base after a four-week deployment in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes and Illinois Emergency Management Agency Acting Director Joseph Klinger were among those on hand to welcome home and thank the soldiers from the 933rd Military Police Company, based in Fort Sheridan.
“Illinois is so proud of these men and women who provided vital security services for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico during relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria,” Rauner said. “Their professionalism and preparedness for duty was tremendously welcomed and appreciated by those on the island. Welcome home, soldiers, and thank you for a job well done.”
“The soldiers did an outstanding job assisting the people of Puerto Rico, and we are gratified that they were able to complete their mission and return home safely to their families before Christmas,” said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. “Let’s remember that we still have Illinois Guardsmen assisting in Puerto Rico and supporting contingency operations around the world. We must keep them and their families in our prayers.”
The soldiers escorted relief convoys, conducted law enforcement patrols, secured distribution points and more in Puerto Rico, where relief and reconstruction efforts continue. Maria was a Category 4 hurricane when it slammed into the Caribbean island in September.
“Welcome home and thanks for your service to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico,” IEMA’s Klinger said. “The Illinois National Guard continues to be a key partner in providing essential assistance [in the aftermath] of all types of disasters, whether in Illinois or beyond our borders. Bravo Zulu!”
Thirty-eight Illinois Air National Guard troops remain in Puerto Rico. The airmen are civil engineering experts, air traffic controllers, security forces and services personnel serving in the U.S. territory on federal orders.
Puerto Rico requested Illinois’ assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the U.S.’ state-to-state mutual aid system. Puerto Rico has agreed to reimburse the State for the estimated $948,000 cost of the deployment.
Video footage from today’s tour will be available here.