Governor JB Pritzker has activated approximately 60 Illinois National Guard Soldiers for state active duty to assist with the state's flood response operations along the Illinois River.
"The Illinois National Guard has shown the capability to rise to any challenge," said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "The pandemic complicates flood response, but we will do whatever it takes to protect our fellow Illinoisians."
The Soldiers activated include about 40 Soldiers from Company D, 766th Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB), based in Bloomington, who will conduct levee and sandbag monitoring operations in the vicinity of Meridosia, Valley City and the Big Swan Levee. Other potential missions for the Illinois National Guard include sand bagging, sandbag placement and infrastructure support.
An additional five Soldiers from the unit have been activated to serve as the command and control team. Flood operations also include Illinois National Guard liaisons and planners.
To date, four counties have declared local disaster declarations to provide the necessary resources to initiate the local flood response. Similarly, Governor JB Pritzker has issued a state disaster proclamation for Grundy, Pike, Scott and Morgan counties. The declaration will ensure state support to communities that are shoring up local levees to protect communities from rising river levels.
The Soldiers reported to their readiness centers today (Thursday, May 21) for in processing and screening. As part of the screening, each Soldier will be tested for COVID-19 at the Bloomington Community Based Testing Site. They are expected to start flood fighting duties tomorrow (Friday, May 22.) The Soldiers will be adhering to COVID-19 safety standards including the wearing of masks and maintaining six-feet of distancing whenever the mission allows.
The Soldiers will see additional changes in normal operations to address the COVID-19 environment. In addition to testing, they will be issued PPE to use while working in conditions where they cannot appropriately implement social distancing procedures, and they will be housed within the community to ensure the virus is not being brought into the affected communities.