Even as the U.S. military is scaling back its presence in Afghanistan, another unit of the Illinois National Guard is being sent to the Middle East. It's the largest deployment of Illinois soldiers in years.
The call-up affects about 280 soldiers in the 108th Sustainment Brigade, based in Chicago. The group handles supply, finances, human resources, mail, and even operates boats for the Army.
Major Brad Leighton is spokesman for the Illinois National Guard. He's also an executive officer for a battalion in the 108th, which means he's among the soldiers who are going to Kuwait.
"It may seem menial, but it's work that's got to be done, and it's important that we support our war fighters," Leighton said.
It'll be his third deployment, and he says this one will be particularly rough.
"My first two deployments were when my son was very young. Now he's at an age where he knows what's going on a little bit more."
A past call-up sent close to 3,000 Illinois soldiers to Afghanistan. Leighton says the upcoming operation is Illinois' second largest deployment of an individual unit.
They'll spend about 10 months overseas, returning this fall.