EASTOVER, S.C. — U.S. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief, National Guard Bureau, and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited South Carolina, Aug. 16, 2014, to meet with National Guard commanders, Soldiers and Airmen and tour Guard bases and training areas.
Initially invited by Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general for South Carolina, to speak at the Castle Rally, a dinner for the engineer community to recognize individual and unit excellence, Grass also wanted to get out with the Guardsmen and tour McEntire Joint National Guard Base and McCrady Training Center (MTC). During the tour, he talked with Army and Air National Guard commanders and observed engineers fielding new equipment and conducting lane clearance.
“When I found out there was a drill weekend going on, it’s an opportunity to get in the dirt and see some engineers,” said Grass, a former combat engineer himself. “This is the best thing I get to do. It’s the best thing any leader can do, is to be with the men and women of the Guard.”
Grass serves as a military adviser to the president, secretary of defense, National Security Council and is the official channel of communication from the Department of Defense to the governors and state adjutants general on all matters pertaining to the National Guard.
After arriving at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Grass met with Soldiers and Airmen and discussed the training and capabilities of the Air National Guard’s F-16 and the National Guard’s AH-64 Apache. These combat assets are critical in the Department of Defense’s strategic reserve in defending the homeland and wartime missions overseas.
Later, Grass visited a group of engineers who were conducting training during their drill weekend. He was able to see Soldiers from the 1782nd Engineer Company, out of Lancaster, use a wide range of equipment that could assist them in wartime and peacetime to provide a variety of choices to state and federal government when needed.
After having lunch with the troops, Grass donned protective gear and went with Soldiers of the 1222nd Sapper Company, out of Fort Mill, who demonstrated lane breaching techniques and detonated two Bangalore torpedoes.
Although there was a lot to be impressed by with the diversity in the bases and high training standards, it’s always the service members that impressed Grass the most.
“What I always find so interesting is the qualifications these men and women have,” said Grass. “First of all is the number of deployments they have had. And then when you get into the civilian skills that are out there, it’s phenomenal. They bring a lot of skill sets from their civilian jobs. And that is a tremendous value to the governor and the president.”
Grass is responsible for ensuring that the more than 470,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and Air Force. Visits and tours like this help him to do this mission.
“The key here is I’m going back to the Pentagon and fight harder for the resources,” said Grass.
In addition to the excellent job the Soldiers and Airmen do, they could not do it without a lot of support.
“It is important to thank the families and the employers, because they have sacrificed with us for 13 years of war and it is amazing what they have gone through,” said Grass.