About 400 members of the Illinois National Guard Second Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, will leave for their deployment to Afghanistan Tuesday, including members from the Effingham area.
The unit also includes those based in Litchfield, West Frankfort, Marion and Mt. Vernon, with 90 to 95 soldiers deploying from Effingham. The guardsmen are being mobilized in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The soldiers will be honored with a send-off ceremony Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Banterra Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Among those deploying is Lt. Col. Gregory Settle of Effingham.
This will be Settle’s fourth overseas deployment. Settle was deployed from 2003 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and from 2008 to 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Settle said this will be his first deployment since his sons, Jackson and Wesley, were born. His wife of 12 years, Amanda, is accustomed to his overseas service, but Settle said he is unsure how his sons will react to his 10-month deployment.
“Every time you deploy, it’s always a challenge on your family. This will be my first deployment with my two sons. They’re 8 and 5, so they understand what’s going on. But how they’re going to react to me being gone, I don’t know that yet,” Settle said.
Having the unwavering support of his family and the Effingham area helps Settle and his soldiers feel “taken care of” by the community, Settle said.
Settle joined the Army National Guard in 1995 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant Field Artillery Officer through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at SIUC in 2001. He first was assigned to the C Battery, Third Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment.
Settle is a 2001 SIUC graduate with a bachelor’s degree in science, as well as a 2016 graduate of Trident University, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration. His military education includes the field artillery officer basic course, infantry captain’s career course and command and general staff college.
Throughout his 24-year career, Settle has held several command and staff assignments. These include liaison officer, executive officer, company commander, training officer, battalion operations officer, battalion officer in charge and brigade operations officer.
Settle’s work with the National Guard has also earned him several awards and decorations. He has earned three Bronze Star Medals, one with a Valor device, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Air Assault Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
To prepare for their current mission, members of the battalion spent the summer of 2018 at the Joint Readiness Training Center, which is the Army’s top training center to prepare for the rigors of war. The training center is a war simulation that tests soldiers physically, mentally, for endurance and more.
Settle said as the battalion commander and for his soldiers, they often try to manage expectations for deployments because soldiers can go through a range of emotions when overseas.
“We know that we’re going to experience every spectrum of emotion that a human body can. We’re going to have good days, bad days, exciting days, hard days, but managing that to where the men feel comfortable in the mission set that we have, I think, is really the No. 1 priority,” Settle said.
In addition to the send-off ceremony in Carbondale, a prayer service at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital chapel will be held at noon on Tuesday. All community members are invited to the brief service to join in prayer for the men and women of the battalion and for their families.
Settle encouraged the community to continue to support the deployed soldiers and their families. He said it is his honor to serve the country.
“Honestly, to serve this great nation is the most honorable thing I think anyone can do. It gives me great pride in the men, my family. It’s possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and also one of the greatest things I’ve ever done as well, Settle said.
“As the battalion commander, I am honored and humbled to serve this great organization, the Second Battalion, 130th Blackhawks, and we’ll see you in 10 months. We will do our best.”