National Guard brigade gets new commander

National Guard brigade gets new commander

URBANA – A 28-year veteran is the new commander of Army National Guard soldiers in Urbana, many of whom are expected to be sent back to Iraq this year.

Col. Scott Thoele, 49, will lead the 33rd Brigade Combat Team. He assumed the post during a change-of-command ceremony in Urbana on Saturday.

The 33rd Brigade Combat Team has about 3,900 soldiers scattered all over Illinois, with Urbana its headquarters. It was reorganized from the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment.

The unit has armories in Aurora, Bloomington, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago, Crestwood, Dixon, Effingham, Elgin, Galva, Kankakee, Kewanee, Litchfield, Machesney Park, Marion, Marseilles, Mattoon, Mount Vernon, Pontiac, Salem, Springfield, Sycamore, Urbana, West Frankfort and Woodstock.

More than 2,700 of the soldiers in the brigade received an alert order in October for a potential yearlong deployment later in 2008.

The date has yet to be disclosed. The Army Times reported in October that "some of the 33rd (Brigade) soldiers are to deploy this summer; the majority are to head over later in the year."

Thoele, who has a wife, Paula, and four children, has already served a tour of duty in Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as in Grenada.

He also did some wrap-up work in Operation Desert Storm.

Thoele takes over command from Col. David Matakas, who had been in command since July 2006.

Matakas was the first commander of the reconfigured 33rd Brigade Combat Team and the first Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander in the state.

In a brief telephone interview, Thoele, originally from Quincy, said he was excited about the leadership task.

He said Iraq was "terribly hot, but I didn't have it too bad."

"I worked in headquarters with the Polish army. I was working in operations," he said, adding he spoke little or no Polish.

The Polish officers spoke English, it turns out.

Thoele says that Illinois and Poland are "partnership states."

"When Poland left the Warsaw Pact and became a NATO nation, they lined us up because Chicago has a large population of Poles," he said.

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