Former Tolono teacher leading major military training exercise

    Pictured is Col. Mark Alessia, of Sherman. (ILARNG photo)

    He traded teaching middle school students for leading National Guard soldiers. Now, Col. Mark Alessia, of Sherman, is leading a massive month-long military training exercise.

    Alessia and 4,500 Illinois Army National Guard soldiers are headed to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana for a month.

    Alessia joined the ILARNG in 1992 as enlisted Infantry Soldier and served while earning a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    He then taught middle school math and history at Tolono CUSD #7 while also serving as a traditional civilian-soldier until 2003 when he began working for the Guard full-time.

    "I'd been mobilized for active duty two times in two years. So while I loved both the military and teaching, when the opportunity came up to be active duty and stay local, and concentrate on one profession, it was an easy decision to make the switch to full-time military service.," Alessia said in a press release.

    The Soldiers of the 33rd IBCT will train in realistic combat exercises throughout their rotation into August at JRTC.

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