Story by Capt. Brian Hare
FORT JACKSON, SOUTH CAROLINA — The Adjutant General (TAG) for South Carolina directs the South Carolina National Guard (SCNG) to be a community-based, ready, relevant, resilient, and responsible organization, with a mission focused on generating combat-ready units able to conduct state and federal operations, conducting military operations in response to state emergencies, and providing staff support to the Governor for contingency operations.
In support of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr.’s directives and the SCNG mission, approximately 300 leaders from across the South Carolina Army and Air National Guard assembled at the Soldier Support Institute on Fort Jackson to attend the TAG Leader’s Call 16 in Columbia, South Carolina, Sept 24-25.
The annual Leader’s Call is a forum for South Carolina National Guard leaders to share successes and challenges, communicate concerns and issues, and provide clear feedback to South Carolina National Guard senior leadership.
The leaders in attendance at the forum included command teams from the Major Subordinate Commands (MSC), directorates, and training sites of the South Carolina Army National Guard, specifically commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants, and warrant officers, as well as their peers and counterparts from the South Carolina Air National Guard.
Livingston opened this year’s event by thanking the attendees for their combined efforts over the past fiscal year, including the South Carolina National Guard’s support provided to the response and recovery operations during the historic flooding that occurred in South Carolina in October 2015, as well as the many overseas and in-country deployments that SCNG units have been supporting.
“It was a tremendous year last year,” said Livingston. “A lot of hard work, a lot of good things have happened to the Guard as a whole, to South Carolina and to the people of South Carolina, and I want to thank you for that.”
Livingston discussed some of the strategic initiatives for the organization during the coming year and beyond, to include the areas of air defense, cyber, aviation, the continued development of in-state training sites, and the expansion of international engagements, such as the State Partnership Program with Colombia, among others.
He also spoke on the organizations efforts with family support programs and addressing veterans’ issues during the previous year, before issuing challenges and goals to be met by company-level commanders over the coming year.
Following the opening remarks by Livingston and a briefing on the South Carolina Air National Guard presented by U.S. Air Force Col. Nicholas Gentile, 169th Fighter Wing commander, participants attended breakout sessions for discussions, work groups, and briefings by leaders and representatives of various directorates and staff sections of the SCNG, including the Facilities Management Office, the Recruiting and Retention Command, and the Judge Advocate General office, among others.
One of the highlights of this yearly event is the recognition of the top performing company-level units in the South Carolina Army National Guard MSCs, based on the evaluating criteria of a total percentage of operational availability, the reenlistment success rate of the unit, and the overall status within the unit with the Army Physical Fitness Test.
The four units recognized as the top performing within the past fiscal year, listed by order of overall performance, were Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery Regiment, 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command; 131st Military Police Company, 51st Military Police Battalion, 59th Troop Command; Alpha Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion, 59th Aviation Troop Command; and 111th Signal Company, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
After meeting for a discussion with U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brad Owens, director of Joint Staff for the South Carolina National Guard, the commanders and first sergeants of the recognized units were allowed to share their experiences and success stories with the entire audience during a lessons learned town hall proctored by Owens.
“After meeting with these leaders, the future looks bright for the Guard,” said Owens. “Leadership doesn’t change throughout the years, but you’re going to hear some techniques and antidotes that you can apply.”
U.S. Army Capt. Teon Singletary, A Battery 1-178th FA commander, offered that one of his first actions as a new commander of his unit was to not only talk in-depth with the first sergeant and outgoing commander, but to also go back and study all of the After Action Reviews on file, as a means of determining the current status of the unit in terms of trends and morale.
Singletary relayed that he made it clear to the platoon leaders and non-commissioned officers in his command that he was not in his position to micromanage, but to provide his philosophy and guidance and to mentor and coach as needed.
First Sgt. Christopher Jiles, also of A Battery 1-178th FA, said that most of his Soldiers wanted responsibility.
“As long as they’ve got responsibility and a sense of purpose while at drill, they’ll be motivated and will stay engaged,” added Jiles.
Jiles relayed that his unit helped overcome the challenges of recruiting within a rural area by developing recruiting teams within his unit, made up of two to five traditional drilling Soldiers. These teams attend local events to increase the visibility of the unit within the community.
1st Lt. Katherine Weatherly, 131st MP Co. commander, emphasized personal accountability to the Soldiers within her unit, in areas such as physical fitness, medical readiness, and timeliness.
“We either succeed or fail as one team,” said Weatherly. “If there’s one person not meeting the standard, then the whole company is going to feel it.”
Common themes throughout the town hall included having a clear commander’s intent, empowering NCO’s and enlisted Soldiers, diversifying training events and unit activities, offering an enhanced physical training program, keeping Soldiers engaged to maintain good morale, and recognizing that units are motivated by realistic, real-world training.
Livingston presented his commander’s coin to each of the top performing commanders and first sergeants in attendance at the conclusion of the Leader’s Call, as well as an outstanding unit certificate for each unit and a streamer for the guidon of Alpha Battery, 1-178th FA as the recognized top-performing unit.
“It’s those men and women who are willing to sacrifice every day, that’s what makes our country great,” said Livingston. “This National Guard that we’re so proud to be a part of is special. Men and women come into our ranks wanting to do good, and you give them that ability.”