For several days in October, members of the Illinois National Guard’s Bilateral Embedded Staff (BEST) Team convened in Marseilles for pre-deployment training. In the coming months, the soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan.
The Illinois National Guard has had a state partnership with the Polish military since 1993. The Guard began co-deploying with a Polish brigade first to Iraq and then Afghanistan starting in 2003.
The Marseilles State Fish & Wildlife Area in northern Illinois is also used by hunters for small game like squirrels and doves. It has open fields, rugged woods, and deep ravines.
The Marseilles State Fish & Wildlife Area is a joint-use area for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs. In the agreement governing use of the site, either party may use the whole site when necessary.
Ted Love is the site superintendent for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:
“I think that, given the world situation, our users understand the need for our troops to have the training and basically whatever they need to complete their mission. They recognize that, and I think they are fully supportive of that.”
- Ted Love, IDNR
Captain Michael Kowalski is the interim training site manager for the Illinois National Guard. He says sharing the land is a coordinated effort:
“We can’t have hunters and navigators (soldiers) out there at the same time. For the most part, we can designate upfront ‘this is hunting, this is training’ and it’s great. When these road-to-war units get the order, we don’t have any control over that.
-Capt. Michael Kowalski
So as one group in camouflage heads out of Marseilles this week, another group heads back in for a truly different purpose.