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Firing up the memories

POSTED: December 30, 2013 6:28 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Former service members of the Army National Guard’s C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 214th Field Artillery look at photos during the unit’s reunion at the National Guard Armory in Springfield.

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Charles Webb has held a number of leadership positions in his career, including serving as a school district superintendent, school principal and high school football coach.


However, he said nothing quite compares to his time in the Army National Guard’s C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 214th Field Artillery, a unit he served in for years and led as its commander in 1978.


“One of the best opportunities that I ever had was to command that unit and to be there at a time when there was so much talent within the unit,” Webb said. “That was not only an outstanding leadership opportunity, but also had a lot to do with furthering my career in the military — and the military helped me in all those other areas.”


Webb had a chance to catch up with many of his fellow veterans of the Effingham-based unit this month at its reunion at the National Guard Armory in Springfield.


“It brought back so many good memories, of not only quality men who knew their jobs but also performed as a team,” Webb said.
“I consider all these people like family,” said Larry Dudney, an Effingham County native and retired general who served as the unit’s commander in 1985.


The reunion — open to anyone who served in C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 214th Field Artillery or A Battery, 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery — was the first of its kind. Dudney recalled a small get-together his unit had after returning from a tour in Iraq, but “it was only about 10 or 12 of us.”


Ernie Webb, who served with Dudney in Iraq and Afghanistan, talked with his friend about having a full-fledged reunion. Dudney passed along the idea to Bob Hynes and Wayne Howard, who he said “just took it and ran with it.”


More than 60 former guardsmen attended the reunion, sharing old stories, pointing out each other in old photos and, in some cases, seeing each other for the first time in years.


“To me, and I think everybody would tell you the same thing, it’s been absolutely wonderful to see people again and to talk about old times and hear some of their stories again,” said Lamar Allen, who served in the unit for 26 years.


“We were hoping for maybe 20, 25 people, but the turnout was just unbelievable,” Dudney said.


In a sense, though, the big crowd shouldn’t have surprised Dudney. After all, the 2/214 has a reputation for going above and beyond.


The 2/214 made a historic trip to Camp Shelby, Miss., in May, 1978 for its annual training. They were the first National Guard field artillery unit chosen to take the Army Training Test, the precursor to the current Army Training and Evaluation Program.


“The only battery throughout the whole state, throughout the whole nation, that was called upon to take the test at that time was Charlie Battery in Springfield,” Webb said.


Having the 2/214 take the ATT, Webb explained, was part of the Army’s commitment in the late 1970s to institute common proficiency measures for regular Army, National Guard and Reserves. He added that, at the time, only about 50 percent of the regular Army units were passing the test on the first administration.


“We passed,” Webb said, “which was really a remarkable and outstanding thing for that particular unit to have done that.”


Webb feels that reflected the quality of men who were in the unit — as do their accomplishments later in life.


He pointed to former commander Preston Exley, who became chief magistrate judge in Effingham County, and Allen, a successful businessman and chairman of the Effingham County Board of Education. He credited the commanders who preceded him, particularly Exley and Gerald Thomas, for “setting the standard for that unit.”


“It’s a unit with a proud tradition and has a tremendous reputation of developing leaders at all levels,” Webb said. “A lot of those people went on and have assumed leadership roles within their community.”


The guardsmen plan to make the reunion an annual event. According to Dudney, the plans for next year’s will include some way to honor the troops from the unit who have died through the years.


“We’ve had quite a few that are gone to the big firing point in the sky,” Dudney said. “A lot of these people who are no longer with us were big influences on my life.”

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