Illinois National Guard unit nearly two months into mission in Ukraine


URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Central Illinois soldiers are hard at work keeping our country safe, and helping the country their stationed in do the same.

About 165 men and women make up a group called Task Force Illini. They’re with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat team, which is headquartered at the Illinois National Guard in Urbana.

The task force is 5,000 miles away from home on a mission in Yavoriv, Ukraine. The U.S. soldiers deployed back in June.

They’re helping develop a combat training center in western Ukraine. The mission is part of ongoing efforts to help reform the country’s military. It came at the request of the Ukrainian government five years ago.

“Our task force, in particular, offers and [brings] here in our advising mission…a lot of combat experience, and we also have a lot of people on our team that have significant experience in training management,” says Colonel Clayton Kuetemeyer with Task Force Illini.

Improving security and going through military reform will help with Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO, but the U.S. soldiers say the learning experience is a two-way street.

“Not just on a military professional level, but also on a cultural level. Getting to experience what life is like in a completely different part of the world…always brings a fair amount of humility…and some appreciation,” says Colonel Kuetemeyer.

Task Force Illini will spend nine more months overseas before coming back home.

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