Headlines in the Midlands
S.C. State Guard’s performance during exercise lauded by Federal Emergency official
GREENVILLE, SC - April 27, 2012 - Exercise Blazing Fury – an emergency-response exercise involving nearly 20 state and federal agencies – was held at the Greenville-Spartanburg (S.C.) International Airport, Apr. 24-26. And according to at least one U.S. Army officer coordinating the exercise, one of the most important agency players in the three-day training evolution was the S.C. State Guard.
"The S.C. State Guard is a tremendous asset to our overall mission," says U.S. Army Lt. Col. Deloris Hooker, representing the Army's Federal Coordinating Center (FCC) at Ft. Jackson. "We are fortunate to have the support of the State Guard."
The exercise scenario – replicating an uncontrolled wildfire in Florida that breached the boundaries of a nuclear facility in that state – tested the response capabilities of receiving-hospitals in the S.C. upstate (where most of the mock patients were delivered) and the community as a whole, as at least one C-17 transport aircraft (from Joint Base Charleston) ferried 55 patients to the airport. Another 20 patients arrived via ground transportation.
The State Guard was involved at every level from providing security, to traffic control, communications, medical triage, serving as litter bearers, even assisting as ground crewmembers for the C-17. "Our aviation detachment served as ground crews this year in Greenville, just like they did last year in Columbia," says Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Parnell, 1st Brigade, S.C. State Guard.
Hooker adds, "A lot of my fellow FCC coordinators don't have the benefit of state guards. Fortunately, we do; and frankly we rely heavily on them every year."
State Guard officials say they welcome the opportunity for their volunteer Guardsmen to participate in "realistic training exercises" like Blazing Fury.
"These exercises provide the State Guard a remarkable chance to develop and sharpen our skills, and to keep them sharp," says S.C. State Guard commander Richard Eckstrom, a retired Naval officer and former state treasurer who – in addition to his command of the State Guard – serves as the state's Comptroller General. "Exercises like this involve us working shoulder-to-shoulder with other branches of the military and with federal, state, local and even nonprofit agencies to save lives that might be threatened by either natural disasters or by intentionally destructive acts in our state."
COL Thomas S. Mullikin, deputy commander (operations), S.C. State Guard, agrees.
"The S.C. State Guard has always had a proud tradition of answering the call - be it responding to a natural disaster or defending the homeland as we are directed - stretching back to the colonial wars," says Mullikin, an environmental attorney, global expedition leader, and former U.S. Army Reserve officer. "We will continue to train to the highest standards and stand ready to protect the lives of families across our great state."
Like other similar exercises held each year, Blazing Fury was designed to prepare responding agencies and the broader community for the forthcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1, 2012 and runs through the end of November.
The S.C. State Guard, which traces its lineage back to the early state militia of 1670, is today an all-volunteer state defense-force component of the broader S.C. Military Dept. (SCMD). The SCMD is composed of the adjutant general's headquarters, the S.C. Army National Guard, the S.C. Air National Guard, the S.C. State Guard, the Joint Services Detachment, the Emergency Management Division, and various other elements.
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle squad leader and counterterrorism instructor who writes about military/defense issues and has covered war in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He directs the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. He is a senior commissioned officer in the S.C. Military Dept. He is the author of six books, a New York Times bestselling editor, and his articles appear in a variety of publications. Smith's website is uswriter.com.