Guard leaders face tight budgets, high ops tempo

GREENVILLE – An increased operational tempo and a dwindling military budget pose dual challenges for leaders of the S.C. National Guard, said Maj. Gen Bob Livingston, the adjutant general.

Despite the challenges, it is important that all units maintain a high level of readiness and relevance, Livingston said in presenting his vision and strategic plan for 11,000-member S.C. Guard at three-day strategic planning conference than ended Sunday.

“Members of our organization are to be ready, relevant, resilient and responsible,” said Livingston. “My unit commanders should have their troops and equipment readied to the point that they should be able to walk up to me, tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘I’m ready to go’. We still have to fight for proper force structure to remain relevant for the good of the state and the nation.”

Since 9/11, the country has asked a lot of the military and their families. This often included deploying National Guard soldiers and airmen to combat zones, requiring them to spend months at a time away from their homes and families.

“We need to do a better job of identifying issues so that we can help our people,” Livingston said.  “Thorough resiliency training, our troops can get the help that they need and can look out for one another.”

In the past, the SCNG has worked from the top-down, meaning information moved from commander, down to other officers and senior enlisted and finally to junior enlisted soldiers.

“But bottom-up is how we are going to make this resiliency piece work,” said Livingston. “Troops will be trained to look out for one another.”

Livingston also insisted that the Guard remain responsible for its people, families and the environment.

“The SCNG exists to serve the needs of our nation and our state,” said Livingston.

The planning conference also included break-out sessions for all Major Subordinate Command (MSC) leaders, where specific goals and challenges were discussed.

“The MSC break-out sessions provide the opportunity for unit leaders to refine the adjutant general’s goals as it pertains to their area of responsibility,” said 1st Lt. Michael Haley, the strategic plans and training officer with the 59th Troop Command. “This allows the opportunity for us to create a well-defined written plan to become most efficient with maxim performance.”

Members of the 251st Medical Company discussed the importance of providing commanders with a list of best practices and are working on a preventative health program.

Incoming commander for the 59th Troop Command, Col. Roy Van McCarty, told his staff: “The words of our mission should be put into words that everyone can understand. Every soldier has to be able to see it and believe it.”

In addition to the Army and Air Guard, the conference included members from the South Carolina State Guard.

“The mission of the State Guard is to support the governor and the adjutant general in the event of a state emergency,” said Maj. Joe Ellers, training cadre with the State Guard. “The adjutant general expects the same from the State Guard as he does from the National Guard.”

The conference concluded Sunday with MSC leaders reporting to Livingston with detailed action plans for the areas that they plan to improve. A common theme with each command was their budget and competition for time and resources. But part of this weekend’s purpose was to find ways to alleviate the stress of these issues and concerns.

“We have a clear plan of where we’re going,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Williams, commander 169th Fighter Wing, “because we want to be the best F-16 fighter wing in the Air Force, not just in the Guard.”

Although this conference was an opportunity for commanders and leaders to collaborate and strategize about their unit’s future, another purpose is to quickly get this information to junior soldiers and airmen.

“This is great for us to focus on, but it really matters to get this information down to the airmen (and soldiers),” Williams said. “We’re going to keep focusing on the family readiness and resiliency programs so everyone will always be 100 percent ready.”

Unit commanders, first sergeants, officers and key enlisted members from South Carolina attended the conference.