Story by Sgt. Tashera Pravato
While many of the S.C. National Guard and their state partnership of Colombia’s exchanges have focused on mission readiness, one key aspect that the South Carolina National Guard has had great success is in family readiness. To share some of these concepts with the Colombian military, Mrs. Barbara Livingston joined her husband U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general of South Carolina, and key leaders from the S.C. National Guard on a state partnership engagement to Colombia April 10-16, 2016.
“Military officials from Colombia came last spring and I had the pleasure of showing their spouses our beautiful state. They joined us for a gathering and I told them about our service member and family care programs,” said Mrs. Livingston.
“They were very interested in what we were doing to help our families and asked if I would come and share this information with some of their senior spouses in Colombia.” One major difference between Colombia and the United States is the National Guard. Colombians have no such force and are trying to figure out how to conduct missions during peacetime that benefit their citizens. However, one thing both Colombia and South Carolina have in common is a desire to connect with their service members and families.
“They don’t have that same military makeup. Their soldiers are on constant deployment all the time but they do want to find a way to figure out how to unite the families,” said Mrs. Livingston.
While on her visit to Colombia, Mrs. Livingston gave a presentation concerning family programs to a group of spouses to include the wives of the minister of defense, commander of the air force and commander of the navy. During the presentation, Mrs. Livingston was able to inform the group about resiliency training, deployment support and survivor outreach services, as well the many other programs the South Carolina National Guard maintains.
“Being the spouse and not the service member, I know what happens within families. Experienced spouses can be the voice for families to make sure that they are taken care of,” said Mrs. Livingston. “It is our responsibility to make them resilient and provide programs that support both them and their service member.”
The Colombian ladies were especially interested in the community outreach portion of her presentation. “Part of building a network for service members and families is connecting dots between the armed forces and with the community to garner support for military,” added Mrs. Livingston. Service member and family service programs can be critical to the health of a military force. The programs implemented in the South Carolina National Guard contribute to the overall readiness of its forces.
“By letting the service member know that there are people there for their family when they leave, we enable them to be less worried because they know their family has somewhere to turn,” said Mrs. Livingston. “I floundered when Bob was gone. I didn’t have this service. There was no one to call or turn to and it was lonely. To know that there are people to call about finances or jobs or mental help, that’s amazing and the Colombians see that.”
Along with the Livingstons, members of the South Carolina National Guard command staff, including Command Sgt. Maj. Robert H. Brickley, the state command sergeant major, went on the partnership exchange to Colombia.
Since its launch in 2012, when the South Carolina National Guard introduced its State Partnership with the Republic of Colombia, South Carolina has focused on establishing long-term relationships where Colombia and South Carolina can promote mutual interests and build lasting capabilities. In the past fiscal year the South Carolina National Guard held 26 engagements with its partner nation, and is already on track to surpass that number in 2016.