Metro-East News

Belleville colonel appointed to head Illinois Air National Guard

A colonel who who has been based at Scott Air Force Base and lives in Belleville, is becoming a general and will lead the Illinois Air National Guard, the governor’s office has announced.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed Col. Peter Nezamis to serve as the acting assistant adjutant general for Air. Nezamis is being promoted to brigadier general and replaces retiring Maj. Gen. Ronald Paul.

“Col. Nezamis has served our state and our country for over 30 years and it is my honor to promote him to head our Air National Guard,” Pritzker said in a news release. “As the commander-in-chief of the Illinois National Guard, I recognize the vital role our airmen and soldiers play in keeping our communities safe. I’m grateful to retiring Maj. Gen. Paul for his decades of service and look forward to our Air National Guard continuing to thrive under Col. Nezamis.”

Jordan Abudayyeh, Pritzker’s press secretary said Nezamis title is “acting” for now because an adjutant general has yet to be named. Once that position is filled, Nezamis may be moved or stay in this new position, she said. The administration hopes to name an adjutant general in the coming weeks.

Nezamis, 55, commanded the Air National Guard’s 126th Air Refueling Wing based at Scott for 12 years before being named as the Illinois National Guard Chief of the Joint Staff in March.

He is based in Springfield, but still has a house in Belleville, where he and his wife, Teeshia, spend their weekends.

In the position, Nezamis will oversee the refueling wing at Scott, as well as the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, and the 183rd Air Wing at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. The three units have a total of about 3,000 people, of which about 1,000 people are full-time employees.

“The most important thing for the three air wings is to make sure we’re ready to meet any contingency operation overseas that the national command authorities call us to do. So it has to do with readiness,” Nezamis said in an interview. “The most important thing to do is to make sure to maintain a high state of readiness like we always do in the wings, and at the same time look toward the future as new weapons systems are developed for our air wings.”

Nezamis added the wings have to stay ready to serve the residents in the state, such as during a natural disaster.

Nezamis said it is an honor to be named to the position.

“When I first joined the Air National Guard in 1986, I never envisioned the journey that would prepare and lead me to this destination,” Nezamis said in a news release. “Flying airplanes was a dream I had from a young age. When I matched that passion with service to our state and nation, the Air National Guard was a perfect fit. It’s truly an honor to have served our citizens and follow in the footsteps of so many great leaders.”

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.