CHAMPAIGN – The National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign will honor about 165 Illinois Army National Guard soldiers on Saturday for their service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The ceremony for the Urbana-based Headquarters, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be held at 10 a.m. at Hawthorn Suites, 101 Trade Centre Drive, C.
Soldiers from Headquarters, 33rd IBCT were mobilized in September 2008 and operated as the higher headquarters for the 33rd IBCT and Task Force Phoenix while the brigade served in Afghanistan.
They returned a year later, on Sept. 15, 2009.
The soldiers were part of the largest overseas deployment of the Illinois National Guard since World War II. The deployment included approximately 30 units throughout the state, which made up the 33rd IBCT.
The 33rd IBCT was mobilized as Task Force Phoenix VIII in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Its primary mission was to train and mentor Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces.
Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VIII was directly responsible for nearly 8,000 combined U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, including the Illinois National Guard's 33rd IBCT.
Some of their accomplishments included helping to reduce the poppy crop production in Afghanistan, dig water wells and build clinics and schools.
During the course of the deployment, more than 4,600 awards were given to soldiers from the combat team, including 66 Purple Hearts, 606 Bronze Stars, eight Bronze Stars with valor, 909 Meritorious Service Medals, 765 Combat Action Badges and 576 Combat Infantry Badges, a press release said.
A total of 18 soldiers from the 33rd IBCT died during the deployment, and more than 90 others were wounded.