Story by 1st Lt. April Hawes, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs
SPRINGFIELD – The son of a World War II veteran, Brig. Gen. Steven P. Huber of Byron enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard (ILARNG) as a 25-year-old private first class. After 33 years of service, Huber is retiring.
“It’s bittersweet to bid Brigadier General Huber farewell,” said Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti of Springfield, Acting Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “He has contributed so much to the Illinois National Guard and the entire U.S. Army with his service stateside and overseas. I’m sad to see him go but I’m honored to have served beside him.”
Soon after Huber graduated from basic training, his battalion commander told him he should be an officer.
“Before I knew it, I was attending Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Springfield,” he said.
Huber graduated OCS in 1981 and admitted, as a new lieutenant, he did not know much and earning the rank of brigadier general never crossed his mind. However after a lot of hard work and being in the right place at the right time, Huber said he is blessed and grateful for the rank he has earned.
Huber’s most recent position is a dual-role, as the Illinois National Guard land component commander and the deputy commanding general for operations for First Army Division East. With First Army, Huber is responsible for the training and preparation of deploying units.
“It is my way of giving back and helping others as they deploy,” he said.
In addition to his most recent positions, Huber has held various positions within the ILARNG, such as commander of the 108th Maintenance Battalion in North Riverside, deputy commander of the 404th Chemical Brigade in Chicago, commander of the 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago and director of the Joint Staff for Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield.
Retired Master Sgt. Kim Broome of Chatham worked with Huber at the 108th Support Battalion in Chicago. She said she thinks his biggest contribution to the ILARNG was his devotion to his country, its men and women and the success of his unit.
“It is an honor knowing and having worked with Brigadier General Huber,” she said. “Simply put, he is a true leader who always puts the mission and his subordinates first. He always led by example and showed true compassion for those under his charge.”
Huber has also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2004, Huber was part of the second (ILARNG) team to co-deploy with the Polish Land Forces. He was the deputy chief of staff, Multi-National Division, Central South in Iraq.
Then in 2008 he led the historic deployment of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Team (IBCT) in Urbana to Afghanistan.
As the Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, he commanded a total of 7,500 servicemembers, contractors and interpreters, which included 3,000 Illinois Soldiers with the 33rd IBCT.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bowman of Plainfield, land forces command sergeant major, served beside Huber in Afghanistan as his sergeant major.
“The most important rules of leadership we both agreed on. Take care of your people, get the mission done, and never send them into a situation that you would not do yourself,” said Bowman. “It has been an honor to serve as his command sergeant major. I would go back into the fight with him anytime and anywhere. It is an honor to call him my friend.”
While in Afghanistan, Task Force Phoenix suffered 43 casualties; 18 belonged to the 33rd IBCT.
“You go in hoping to avoid (casualties), but then reality strikes,” Huber said. “We trained hard and were well equipped. I never said ‘I wish I did more to prepare.’ I take peace in that.”
As he prepares for retirement, Huber said he will miss training in the field with Soldiers, since that is where most of his career was spent. However, he said he plans to stay connected and continue to help and train the organization for the future.
Huber also plans to travel with his wife, Rhonda, and spend time with his daughters, Carla, 24, and Caleigh, 13.
Huber celebrated his retirement Dec. 8 with friends and family at Veterans Memorial Hall in Rockford.