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The State Guard – Much More Than a Military Fraternity
By Richard Eckstrom
web posted October 5, 2012
STATE – In today’s uncertain economy, lots
of college students are anxious about finding good jobs in their chosen
career fields. That seems to have become a fact of life today even for
the approximately 2,300 cadets enrolled at South Carolina’s prestigious
military college, The Citadel.
The armed forces offer a natural career path for Citadel cadets, yet
many of them opt for civilian employment after they graduate. For
them, there’s still an opportunity outside the civilian workplace to
serve in uniform other than through the U.S. military reserve programs.
In fact, it’s an opportunity available to most every South Carolinian.
It’s called the S.C. State Guard.
With origins tracing to the colonial militia, the modern day State
Guard was formally established under state law during World War II. Its
purpose: to serve as a state defense force in the event of natural
disasters and other emergencies.
Today’s State Guard is an unpaid, all-volunteer force numbering more
than 700 from all regions of the state.It adheres to military customs
and mirrors the rank structure and the uniform standards of the Army,
yet its members can never be called into combat or required to leave
As commander of the State Guard, I see firsthand the valuable role it
plays in South Carolina – and the opportunity it provides its members
to serve their communities.
When Hurricane Hugo devastated the Lowcountry in 1989, State Guardsmen
with chainsaws opened some of the first passable eastbound traffic
lanes within hours to begin a daunting recovery and relief effort. More
recently, State Guard volunteers served in the Gulf Coast region after
Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Our volunteers also served in New York
City following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the
governor of New York came here afterward to personally thank our
members who volunteered their help.
The State Guard is not well known, and some folks might perceive it as
little more than a fraternity of ex-military weekend warrior types who
like to hang out in uniform.
Make no mistake – that is a gross misperception.
The reality is that having prior military service is not a requirement
for State Guard membership.
While our ranks include many former armed services personnel, they also
include members who have no prior military service but whohave useful
skills and a dedication to serve their fellow citizens.
Indeed, that’s the main quality the State Guard seeks – dedication.
Our members devote some of their most precious commodity – time – to
train as a team to respond to community emergencies resulting from
natural or man-made causes. And most importantly, they rapidly answer
the call with “boots on the ground” when South Carolinians or their
fellow Americans need help.
On a recent Saturday (Sept. 22), the dedication of the State Guard was
obvious during a training exercise in Francis Marion National Forest
close to where Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989.
Gathering at the national forest whose namesake held command in the
forerunner to our State Guard, many of our members participated in a
grueling 15-mile hike under hot and humid conditions carrying backpacks
weighing 75 pounds.
“This was about as tough a hike as you can conduct,” says Thomas Smith,
a former U.S. Marine and a colonel in the State Guard who participated
in the exercise and who also serves as the Guard’s information officer.
The goal was to practice delivering relief supplies by the most basic
of means – on foot – so that, if necessary, critical supplies can be
delivered quickly even if roads become impassable for delivery
vehicles. And it was a major success, as the participants transported a
full ton of material by the strength of their backs.
The hike was a joint exercise between the State Guard and The
Citadel.State Guard Maj. Glenn Remsen, also a tactical officer of The
Citadel’s Echo Company, organized and took part in this unique
training. Select members of the S.C. National Guard also helped
plan and participate in it.
More than 40 Citadel cadets, six of whom belong to the State Guard,
Maj. Remsen says the Guard provides an attractive opportunity for
cadets who do not go on to join the U.S. military.“They can continue to
serve their state and their country through the S.C. State Guard,” he
says. “One of our values at The Citadel is duty, and this ties into
that – duty to country and state.”
I’m working hard with other State Guard leaders to expand our ranks
among the energetic, service-oriented talent pool at The Citadel. But
we also encourage other South Carolinians between the ages of 17 and 70
and from all walks life to join our ranks to protect and serve the
communities of South Carolina.
If you are interested in learning more about membership, please contact
us today at (803) 299-4238 or toll free at (866) 238-3181, or visit our
website at www.sg.sc.gov.
Editor's note: Richard Eckstrom is
the S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom - who also serves as
chairman of the state Military Base Joint Task Force and commanding
general of the S.C. State Guard
© Copyright 2012 All material is property of
Edgefield Daily and/or parent company ECL and
cannot be reproduced,
redistributed without expressed written permission.
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