Governor Promotes Adjutant General and Selects Assistant Adjutant General
Commander-in-Chief Pins Second Star on Hayes and Appoints ISP Colonel to lead Army National Guard
SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Commander-in-Chief of the Illinois National Guard, promoted Illinois Adjutant General, Richard J. Hayes Jr., to major general today, Aug. 24, and announced the appointment of Brig. Gen. Michael Zerbonia as the Illinois National Guard's Assistant Adjutant General - Army.
Rauner selected Hayes as the Adjutant General and for his second star in May based on Hayes' extensive military and civilian background. His eligibility for promotion was set in motion over a year ago through the Department of the Army and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month.
"It is a great honor to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Illinois National Guard and to promote our state's top military officer. Major General Hayes has the right combination of leadership and expertise to prepare the Illinois National Guard to tackle major emergencies both here in Illinois and overseas," Gov. Rauner said. "His experience commanding a battalion during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a brigade maneuver task force with NATO in Kosovo, and with his 27 years as a leader in the civilian engineering and construction sector illustrates why Richard Hayes epitomizes the true meaning a Citizen-Soldier."
Hayes' promotion coincides with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States, striking U.S. soil Aug. 29, 2005. Hayes led a battalion-sized relief task force in New Orleans. Many of the lessons Hayes and other leaders learned from Hurricane Katrina are being practiced this week, Aug. 24 to Aug. 28, during the simulated 7.7 magnitude earthquake Prairie Assurance exercise in Springfield. The exercise is being conducted with participation agencies from the State of Illinois, non-governmental organizations, National Guard Bureau, and US Northern Command.
"During my career I never concerned myself with becoming a general, never mind earning a second star," Hayes said. "I simply focused on excelling at every assignment I was given, sought to continually improve myself, and set a good example for my troops. I am humbled by this promotion and the opportunity to serve as the Illinois Adjutant General. I recognize the great responsibility bestowed on me and I will apply all of my talents to effectively lead the dedicated Soldiers and Airmen of the Illinois National Guard as we serve the Citizens of Illinois and our Nation."
Brig. Gen. Zerbonia will serve as the full-time Assistant Adjutant General - Army after a long and distinguished career with the Illinois State Police.
Zerbonia was serving as the Illinois National Guard's Land Forces Component Commander, a traditional National Guard position, while serving fulltime with the Illinois State Police as the Colonel of Operations. He will leave the State Police after 28 years to become the full-time Commander of the 10,000 Soldiers of the Illinois Army National Guard serving under Illinois National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, who commands both the Illinois Army National Guard and the Illinois Air National Guard.
"For decades Mike Zerbonia has been a great leader and public servant with both the Illinois Army National Guard and the Illinois State Police," Governor Rauner said. "He has clearly demonstrated his ability to lead troops and build partnerships across state and federal agencies. He is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 30 years of military experience who has the confidence and trust of his Soldiers. " Governor Rauner selected Brig. Gen. Zerbonia on a recommendation from Maj. Gen. Hayes. "Brig. Gen. Zerbonia is the right officer to lead the Illinois Army National Guard as it continues to go from strong to stronger. He has proven his ability to lead and provide the strategic direction for the Illinois Army National Guard preparing for both our state and federal missions. I know that he loves serving as an Illinois State Police trooper and know it was a difficult personal and professional decision to leave the ISP to work at Illinois National Guard headquarters full-time. I am grateful to have Mike Zerbonia serve alongside me. ," Maj. Gen. Hayes said.
Brig. Gen. Zerbonia said taking off his Illinois State Police uniform is difficult, but he was honored to be asked to serve as the Illinois National Guard's Assistant Adjutant General - Army. "Commanding the Illinois Army National Guard is both a great opportunity and challenge. The Illinois Army National Guard has a no-fail contract with the citizens of Illinois and the United States. We have met many great challenges and succeeded, but we have many more ahead. It is a great privilege and honor to lead our great men and women who have willingly committed to helping our neighbors, protecting our state and defending our nation."
Brig. Gen. Zerbonia's last military assignment was as the Illinois Army National Guard's Land Forces Component Commander, a position he was appointed to in June 2013. He enlisted as a military policeman in the Missouri Army National Guard in 1983 and later commissioned as a second lieutenant May 9, 1986 after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Northeast Missouri State University. In 1988, then Lieutenant Zerbonia transferred to the active Army as an air defense artillery officer. He later joined the Illinois National Guard in 1991 as the assistant air defense coordination officer with the 1st Battalion, 202nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.
Brig. Gen. Zerbonia has served in many critical roles at all levels of command and staff in his career. He has served as a battery commander, commander of the 1st Battalion, 202nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, team chief of the 244th Army Liaison Team, commander of the 108th Sustainment Brigade and commander of the Bilateral Embedded Support Team (BEST) A10.
General Zerbonia supported military operations in Poland, Turkey and Germany. He deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from June 2005 to June 2006 and to Afghanistan from September 2012 to June 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.