Ill. Guard general talks Afghanistan

ABC7 Exclusive
October 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) Brigadier General Steven Huber led the Illinois Guard, along with other active duty members, reservists and civilians from 16 countries.

ABC7 talked with Brigadier Huber about the 3,000 Illinois guardsmen who just completed a one-year tour, the soldiers who were killed under his command, and a recent hot-button issue, whether or not more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.

Brigadier General Huber led Task Force Phoenix. That's 7,500 soldiers and civilians, including Illinois' 33rd Infantry Brigade.

Their main mission in Afghanistan was to train and mentor the Afghan Army and police force.

So when asked whether more U-S troops are needed to do that, Huber said he could only speak from his viewpoint, or, as he called it, his foxhole.

"From my perspective of doing the training and mentoring mission over there, we certainly could use more people to do the job," said Brig. Gen. Steven Huber, commander, Joint Task Force Phoenix.

Huber says the goal is to train 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police officers by the end of 2010. Currently, there is talk of doubling those numbers.

"We made great progress and I think they're on their way but they still do have a long way to go," said Brig. Gen. Huber.

Eighteen Illinois Guard soldiers died while Huber was in command - most from improvised explosive devices.

Now, the general is visiting their families and soldiers who were injured.

"Very tough visits, particularly the fallen but I sense they appreciate us reaching out and reassuring them that there is still a connection," said Brig. Gen. Huber.

Overall, the general says he's proud of the soldiers. It was the largest overseas deployment of the Illinois National Guard since World War II.

"Hard work, a lot of sacrifice, not only the soldier but the family. And they did it in with good spirit and a sense of duty," said Brig. Gen. Huber.

One hundred and fourteen Illinois soldiers remain in Afghanistan right now. They volunteered to extend their tours up to six months.

On November 7, the rest of the soldiers who returned home are invited to a special tribute at a Chicago hotel. The mayor and governor are expected to attend and thank the troops.

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