SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Five specialized Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers have deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as part of Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A25.After mobilizing in early May, the team conducted final training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying overseas. This unit’s unique mission allows members to deploy side-by-side with their Polish counterparts. The Soldiers are from various towns in central Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.“The Illinois National Guard has more than 1,000 troops deployed overseas even as we respond to unprecedented missions here at home,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. “This is a small team, but they are doing vital work for our national defense and are strengthening the Illinois National Guard’s unique relationship with the Polish military. This is a special mission; very few states deploy with their partner countries.”As part of the deployment supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the team will assist the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan. In partnership with allied and coalition forces, BEST A25 will train, advise and assist the institutions within the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior.The Illinois National Guard and the Polish military have been partners under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program since 1993, helping Poland emerge from the Warsaw Pact to become a member of NATO and one of the United States’ staunchest allies. Illinois Army National Guard troops have deployed with Poland on every Polish rotation to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterState Partnership Program