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Those trains you see transporting military vehicles? Illinois National Guard says they’re not part of enforcing a lockdown

A mobilization ceremony was held for approximately 400 Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment Jan. 21 at the Banterra Center, Carbondale, Illinois. (Illinois National Guard/Released)

At ease, Chicago.

The Illinois National Guard says it is not coming to put you on lockdown.

With Gov. J.B. Pritzker confirming he is considering a “shelter-in-place order,” questions arose about how it would be enforced. As trains transporting military tanks and Humvees traveled through the Chicago area the past few days, rumors took root on social media that the Illinois National Guard would play a role in imposing the directive.

The Guard quickly shot it down.

“Those (tanks and Humvees) are not ours,” said Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton of the Illinois National Guard. “The military moves equipment all the time by train. If we were to move, we wouldn’t be doing it by train. We would drive.”

Though the governor activated the Illinois National Guard earlier this week to help combat the virus, the service members don’t have a role in enforcing any lockdown order issued by the government.

Instead, 60 service members will be deployed to establish drive-up testing sites, help with food delivery to disadvantaged families impacted by school closures and possibly prepare closed hospitals to reopen.

There are no plans to have the troops with a potential shelter-in-place order, Leighton said.

The vast majority of currently activated troops are health-care professionals – doctors, nurses, medical technicians – who would not be tapped for an law-enforcement assignment.

“We have never even discussed a quarantine mission for the Illinois National Guard,” Leighton said. “It’s never come up.”

Leighton said he understands anxieties are high amid the pandemic, but the Guard is not the boogeyman.

“We are your friends, neighbors and co-workers,” he said. “We’re fellow worshippers at you church, synagogue, mosque or wherever you worship. We are part of the community. We are you. We are not going to invade Chicago. We are here to help.”


© 2020 the Chicago Tribune