KANKAKEE, IL (11/06/2017) (readMedia)-- The Illinois Army National Guard cut the ribbon and officially opened its new Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) and readiness center in Kankakee, Illinois, on Nov. 4.
"We are always working to be better prepared for the war fight and domestic response the next time we have to answer the call for duty," said Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "This facility moves that training into the 21st century and gives us room to grow in the future."
The $64.6 million, 185,200-square-foot aviation facility is among the largest projects undertaken by the Illinois National Guard. The building includes an approximately 112,150-square-foot Army Aviation Support Facility, including maintenance hangers, shops, flight facilities, fuel distribution, state-of-the-art fire suppression systems and a cold storage hanger. It also includes an approximately 73,050-square-foot readiness center, including classrooms, offices, ground equipment maintenance, a weapons simulator and flight simulators, vaults and a medical clinic.
Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson, Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Illinois National Guard, who officiated the ceremony, said the project was a true joint effort.
"This project was paid for with funds from the state of Illinois and the federal government," said Jackson. "But we couldn't have completed this project without a strong partnership with the city of Kankakee and the Kankakee Airport Authority."
Illinois' Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, thanked the Soldiers in attendance for their service and praised the new facility and said projects like this were essential to the economic growth of Illinois before cutting the ceremonial ribbon with Jackson.
"It's our responsibility to provide the best training and facilities to our Soldiers," said Sanguinetti. "This facility will ensure that we have the best trained and ready Soldiers in the state and in the Army National Guard."
Construction was started in September 2014 and was completed in October 2017. The Illinois Army National Guard will move three units and assets from Chicago Midway Armory to the facility in Kankakee. That includes more than 200 traditional Army National Guard Soldiers, approximately 40 full-time employees and ten UH-60 Blackhawks.
"The functional layout and infrastructure support of this new facility is truly remarkable and it will be a privilege and honor to conduct aviation operations from the Kankakee AASF," said Illinois Army National Guard State Aviation Officer, Lt. Col. Jason Osberg of Champaign, Illinois. "The Kankakee flight facility will allow Illinois Army National Guard aviation to continue our mission more efficiently and enhance our aviation readiness for decades to follow."
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former Illinois Army National Guard Blackhawk Pilot with the 106th Aviation, said she was honored to be a part of the ceremony.
"It's an honor to be here at such a great facility for these Soldiers," said Duckworth. "This facility will ensure that the Soldiers here have all they need to defend this nation and serve our people so we don't have to worry about living our lives."
The project was funded with $52.7 million of federal funding and $11.9 million of state funding.
"We have had a great relationship with the city of Kankakee." Hayes said. "We look forward to strengthening that relationship along with relationships in neighboring communities like Bradley and Bourbonnais."
Cutline 1: Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kankakee Army Aviation Support Facility and readiness center Nov. 4, 2017. The 185,200 square-foot facility will house cutting -edge technology, including flight simulators and a medical clinic and will be the new home for more than 200 Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Spreitzer, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs)
Cutline 2: Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks at the Ribbon cutting for the Illinois Army National Guard's new Kankakee Army Aviation Support Facility and readiness center Nov. 4, 2017. Duckworth is a combat veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard and a former Blackhawk pilot with the 106th Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Spreitzer, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs)
Cutline 3: Evelyn Sanguinetti, Illinois' Lieutenant Governor, and Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson, Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Illinois National Guard, cut the ceremonial ribbon at the Kankakee Army Aviation Support Facility Nov. 4, 2017. The 185,200 square-foot facility will house cutting -edge technology, including flight simulators and a medical clinic and will be the new home for more than 200 Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Spreitzer, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs)