Maj. Gen. O. Eugene Powell, Jr., Joint Services Detachment, S.C. Military Dept.
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
EACH MONTH, a group of just under two dozen field-grade and general officers – all volunteer members of the S.C. Military Dept. (SCMD) – gather in Columbia to discuss ways in which specific SCMD initiatives might be advanced at no cost to the South Carolina taxpayer.
Members of the group – the Joint Services Detachment (JSD) – receive no compensation for their services; and the discussion topics range from the 2010 national Medal of Honor convention (to be held in Charleston next month), to helping troubled youth get their lives back on track, to providing assistance and support to soldiers returning from tough overseas deployments, to expanding an awareness of – as well as the exhibits at – the S.C. Military Museum (adjacent the Adjutant General's headquarters building on Bluff Road).
But these officers are not simply talking; they're doing. And in many instances, that 'doing' equates to leading those initiatives.
Maj. Gen. O. Eugene Powell, Jr. – a career attorney, retired judge, retired U.S. Army officer, and now commander of JSD – explains why in many ways JSD may be one of the state's most important assets in terms of the leadership and combined professional experience of the group. Yet few have ever heard of JSD.
What is the Joint Services Detachment, and how does it serve the S.C. Military Dept.?
Maj. Gen. O. Eugene Powel, Jr.:
The Joint Services Detachment (JSD) is part of South Carolina's State Defense Force. It is a volunteer administrative support group composed of military officers, appointed by both S.C.'s governor and the adjutant general.
JSD provides legal, medical, financial, military, and law enforcement staff support to the S.C. Military Department (SCMD), and JSD's officers provide professional assistance to the SCMD allowing it to operate more efficiently and at no additional expense to the SCMD.
The detachment was created by Maj. Gen. Stan Spears, the Adjutant General, in 1996, and since its inception, it has been a valuable force multiplier for the SCMD. Notably, JSD members receive no pay for the services they provide.
What are JSD's front-burner missions?
The primary missions involve special projects that benefit the SCMD and/or promote the professional military image, historical significance and reputation for reliability of the SCMD.
Currently, our officers are working – in conjunction with the S.C. State Guard (SCSG) Foundation and The Citadel – to promote the Medal of Honor Society's annual convention, which – hosted by the SCSG and The Citadel – will be held in Charleston, during the week of Sept. 29 through October 3, 2010. The kick-off event will be here in Columbia on Sept. 27.
For this event, JSD officers have worked tirelessly providing leadership; assisting with fundraising, public relations, planning and execution of this special event, as well as organizing numerous pre-convention events all honoring the recipients of America's highest military award for valor in combat.
JSD is also focused on raising awareness regarding the threat of terrorism. In the near future, our programs will feature presentations to the SCMD made by many of the nation's most respected counterterrorism analysts like former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin, former CIA director Porter Goss, and international terrorism analyst Dr. Walid Phares [regularly seen on FOX News] among others.
Former CIA operations officer Clare Lopez [also a FOX News terrorism analyst and a contract consultant to DoD agencies] briefed us in Dec. 2009.
What have you - as commander of JSD - found to be the most challenging (and most rewarding) particulars associated with working for the S.C. Military Dept?
Serving as commander, JSD is, in itself rewarding. The officers of JSD are skilled professionals.
Among our number are physicians, lawyers, judges, legislators, retired and active executives, the sheriff of Richland County, writers, and public information and photography experts. Most of our officers have prior active or Reserve military service under their belts, or they are retired from the military.
Among our officers are veterans of the Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War eras. At least one officer served in Kosovo. Another was embedded with U.S. and British forces in Iraq. They all give untiringly of their time and efforts. One officer generously donated an invaluable collection of military and law enforcement arms and memorabilia to the S.C. Military Museum.
Mission rewards have been multiple. A JSD senior executive/officer worked through his employer to raise $3,600 for phone cards for deploying S.C. National Guard soldiers. And when a Korean War POW donated his book to the museum, JSD's Legal Directorate processed the copyright from the donor to the museum.
Government Directorate officers, through a JSD legislative member, sponsored a bill, which passed in 2006, approving a State income tax deduction for volunteer members of the SCSG who meet their yearly obligation. More recently, the Government Directorate, through legislative members, introduced a bill to award tax exemptions for S.C. Medal of Honor recipients who served during any war. The bill passed this year.
The JSD Provost Marshal through the Richland County Sheriff's Dept. provided basic military police training for SCSG members to enhance their ability to perform State or local government missions.
The Medical Directorate provided skin cancer examinations for SCSG.
The challenge in providing volunteer services of the quality found in the JSD is always the underlying issue of resources. Without a budget, JSD members donate not only copious amounts of time but contribute their own resources, money, supplies, etc. But, we have always met – and I am confident will continue to meet – the challenge, no matter the cost.
How have your experiences as a lawyer and a judge better equipped you for the challenges of command?
I would say my primary experiences that best equipped me to command JSD stem from being a retired colonel, U.S. Army, and a graduate of the Army War College.
During my tenure as colonel, I was privileged to serve as commander of the 12th Military Law Center and as Staff Judge Advocate, 120th Army Reserve Command, and during Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Central Command [Rear Element]. These senior assignments provided opportunities for both leadership challenges and work with and advising General-officers in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
In JSD, many of our missions have been legal in nature, and so my background as a lawyer and a judge [now retired], enhanced my understanding of the issues and increased my ability to work toward resolution.
On balance, being the commander is easy, because I am surrounded by outstanding professionals who are dedicated to whatever missions may be tasked by the governor, the adjutant general, or the SCMD.
What would South Carolinians be surprised to know about JSD, and to a greater degree, the S.C. Military Dept. which is served by JSD?
JSD has a significant impact in its outreach to military oriented causes and events.
For instance, South Carolinians might be surprised and pleased to know the extent to which the men and women of JSD devote themselves, their time, and energy by serving on boards and committees of the Youth ChalleNGe Academy, the S.C. Military Museum Foundation, the S.C. Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the S.C. USO, the S.C. Association of the U.S. Army (including its current president), the American Society of Journalists & Authors (the nation's premier organization of professional writers, in which one of JSD's officers is the military liaison), and various roles in BEYOND VALOR (the Medal of Honor Society's annual convention).
The collective value of these services, if compensated, would run into the tens-of-thousands of dollars, and that's a conservative estimate. However, each serving JSD officer is rewarded by seeing a young man or woman graduate from the Youth ChalleNGe Academy, watching the smiling faces of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who transition through the USO from basic training or some overseas theater like Iraq or Afghanistan, knowing that an employer will welcome back a National Guard or Reserve employee returning from deployment, witnessing the growth of the S.C. Military Museum as each new exhibit is added, and shaking hands with the real heroes of our military, America's Medal of Honor recipients.
– Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at www.uswriter.com