LVIV, Ukraine – A few Soldiers with Task Force Illini, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Illinois Army National Guard assigned to Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine have already deployed four or five times previously in their career. These Soldiers bring valuable experience to U.S. and Ukrainian troops alike.
“From my first deployment to now, the most obvious change is the uniforms. I have worn four different camo pattern uniforms during my deployments,” said Sergeant Maj. Michael Alvis, senior enlisted advisor of the Task Force Illini brigade advisor group. “The Army’s focus has also changed, from large-scale combat operations in Desert Storm to Counter-Insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now back again to preparing for near-peer fights, like we did during the Cold War.”
Alvis enlisted in the Army in 1987 as a military police officer after an Illinois State Police Trooper advised him to do so to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Alvis’ first deployment was to Bolivia in October 1990 where he worked on a security detail, which at one point included guarding a U.S. ambassador at the LaPaz embassy. Later that year he deployed to Iraq where he was a military police team leader with the 1st Military Police Company, 1st Infantry Division. He deployed with the reconnaissance platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, once in 2002 as a squad leader to Germany and once in 2005 as a platoon sergeant to Iraq. In 2010 he deployed as an infantry advisor with the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team A6 to Afghanistan with the Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade.
Deploying for his sixth time a decade later, Alvis continues to find opportunities for his service to make an impact while he serves in Ukraine.
“This deployment presents a unique opportunity for us to partner with several other countries and to have a significant impact on the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the strategic level. Everyone in the Task Force should be proud of what they are doing here to support this mission,” said Alvis.
For Maj. Douglas McGinnis, who advises Ukrainian trainers on operations and maneuver at the brigade level, this is his fifth deployment. He enlisted into the West Virginia National Guard in 2001 because he enjoyed military history and wanted to defend Americans and their constitutional rights.
McGinnis’s first deployment was as a military police officer in 2003 to Balad, Iraq. In 2008 he deployed to Iraq again, but as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Afghanistan in 2010 as a company executive officer, and also served as the lead trainer of the Afghan Army border patrol. In 2013 he returned to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division, where he was a company commander of a Stryker company.
“Every deployment is different and presents its own unique challenges; however, the common thread I can pull from each deployment is the people. While every culture is different and each foreign military has different goals, basic desires are universal,” said McGinnis. “People want to feel safe in their homes, provide for their families, and enjoy the company of friends. Soldiers want to learn how to protect their people and survive on the battlefield, so they can see their friends and family again. These common desires have helped me connect with civilians and soldiers on every deployment.”
Serving as the Task Force’s Command Sergeant Major, Douglas Danielson is on his sixth deployment. He enlisted into the Army in 1988 to carry on a family military legacy, and to better himself.
Danielson deployed to Panama in 1989, and Kuwait and Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. In 2000 he deployed to Kuwait with the Illinois National Guard’s 1st Battalion 178th Infantry Regiment and then Germany in 2001. In 2009 he deployed again with 1-178 as an operations sergeant major in Afghanistan.
“Take each day one step at a time. Talk to others within your unit and build relationships with those outside of your unit that will carry you and them into the future. Lastly, always keep your head on a swivel,” said Danielson.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Coventry is serving his fifth deployment in Ukraine. He previously deployed to Kuwait 2000-2001, and Germany in 2002. He deployed to Ira q in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2008.
Coventry said his best memories are of the Soldiers he deployed with.
“Being away from home and going through the ups-and-downs together formed strong bonds and built lasting friendships,” said Coventry. ”I also learned from some great leaders how to handle myself, and I’m drawing on those examples here in Ukraine.”
For nearly two dozen Task Force Illini Soldiers Ukraine is the third deployment. Four Soldiers are on their fourth deployment.
Task Force Illini is the command element of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which is responsible for training, advising, and mentoring the Ukrainian cadre at Combat Training Center-Yavoriv, Ukraine in order to improve Armed Forces Ukraine’s training capacity and defense capabilities.