PEORIA, Ill. – The Illinois National Guard suffered its third combat-related casualty yesterday, when, 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Slavenas, 30, of Genoa, Ill., was a member of Company F, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation in Peoria. He was killed at approximately 9:00 a.m. (midnight CST) when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was flying was shot down near the town of Fallujah, Iraq.
Slavenas had been a member of the Peoria-based aviation unit since 2002, serving as a pilot with the unit. He deployed to Iraq with his unit in February in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Illinois Army National Guard aviation unit is currently deployed in the United States Central Command (US CENTCOM) area of operations and is flying numerous missions in support of U.S. military operations. While mobilized and deployed on active duty, the unit falls under the normal command and control structure of US CENTCOM.
“This is a very sad day for Illinois and the men and women of the Illinois National Guard. Our hearts are with the family of lieutenant Slavenas and they have our complete support as they deal with the tragic loss of their loved one," said Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "The men and women of F Company 106th Aviation are highly trained professionals. However, the missions that our military personnel are performing in Iraq, and in other places as a part of the Global War on Terrorism, are inherently dangerous. My deepest prayers and condolences go out to the family of this brave and patriotic young man,” added Thomas.
“My heart, and the hearts of all Illinoisans go out to Brian and Brian’s family today,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I commend his bravery and the bravery of all of our soldiers fighting to end terrorism in the world.”
The Illinois Army National Guard currently has approximately 1,200 soldiers mobilized in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Of that total, approximately 120 are members of the Peoria aviation company, who are deployed and actively supporting U.S. military operations in Iraq. About another 85 Guard soldiers are deployed from the Iowa detachment of the aviation company.