WGN Exclusive: Gov. Rauner rides in Black Hawk helicopter, honors Illinois National Guard

MARSEILLES, Ill. -- Today, the Illinois National Guard flew Governor Rauner from Springfield to its training center in Marseilles.

There, the governor met some of the Army’s finest shooters. Roughly 80 competitors from every battalion in the state converged on Marseilles to show off their marksmen skills.

 With service rifles and pistols, the guardsmen took out their targets. The top 20 shooters – known as the Governor’s 20 -- were presented with a special badge for their excellence in this weekend’s competition. Among them: Sergeants William Burleson and Timothy James.

 After the ceremony it was time for another ride courtesy of the guard. This was Governor Rauner’s first trip in a Black Hawk helicopter. WGN was invited to ride with the governor exclusively as he flew over the new Kankakee Illinois National Guard site, which is now under construction. The Chicago guard’s crew will move here after it opens late next year. The governor says the guard’s current spot at Midway is too congested.

Despite the fact he has no military experience, Gov. Rauner says he is at ease in his role as commander-in-chief of the Illinois National Guard. Last year, the governor ordered the guard on standby to combat floods. But he’s not yet had to deploy them.

The Louisiana National Guard is out in full force fighting the massive flooding there. Illinois has sent supplies and emergency equipment.

One last note on those expert marksmen: they’re going to be practicing at home. It will soon be time to qualify for next year’s competition.