Eckstrom: Historic State Guard has mission as responder on coast
A successor to South Carolina’s Militia of 1670, the State Guard is a first responder for disaster on the coast, just as it did on the night of Jan 6, 2005, to secure the area near Graniteville as clouds of unknown gases went skyward after the the collision of two trains.
Now the State Guard’s Commander, Brigadier General Richard Eckstrom, said he is rebuilding the organization and looking for new volunteers between the ages of 17 and 70.
This is his message as he spoke recently to the Georgetown Lunch Rotary Club, which meets on Tuesdays at the Land’s End Restaurant.
Rotary President Paul Yarborough welcomed members and guests, reminding them this service organization was chartered 74 years ago and is one of the oldest in the state.
Gen. Eckstorm was introduced by Nathan Kaminski, descendant of the Georgetown family, which donated a Georgian-style home, now known as the Kaminski House Museum located on a bluff overlooking the Sampit River.
Gen. Eckstrom is working to make the State Guard more effective by decentralization, taking its units to where people reside, such as those on the coast in the 3rd Light Coastal Brigade, instead of having most activities in the center of the state.
Gen. Eckstrom said the State Guard acts in a support role for the National Guard, law enforcement and other state, county and municipal agencies during times of emergency.
“It provides such services as search and rescue, communications, disaster relief, supply distribution, law enforcement, chaplain work, food bank and medical triage,” he said.
“The State Guard is managed by the South Carolina Military Department under the direction of the Adjutant General. Its Commander in Chief is the governor of South Carolina.”
From a level of 1,000 when he took over a year ago, General Eckstrom said they reduced the ranks by 300.
“We interviewed our people and measured their commitment to our mission, eliminating those who no longer felt they were able to serve local communities in emergency,” he said.
“I’m here to tell you the State Guard needs more volunteers.”
General Eckstrom said they are visiting all 46 counties in the state to create a renewed interest in the guard, to clarify its role and to find new recruits to fill its ranks.
“The group is prepared to have boots on the ground within 48 hours of a disaster,” he said.
“Its emergency operations and management, along with safety and security, require continued community partnership and professional development.”
The State Guard is provided for by the Constitution of South Carolina and other state law.
As a state defense force, it cannot be ordered into federal service, although it occasionally has been sent out of state by order of Governor Nikki Haley, as was done in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
A certified public accountant, Eckstrom has served as SC comptroller general since 2002. During active military duty, he was assigned to U.S. Naval Air Station, Newfoundland, Canada, performing oceanographic research and intelligence gathering.
He had assignments at the Pentagon; Naval War College; Military Sealift Command Headquarters; Naval Reserve Readiness Command Headquarters; NAVFAC Barbados; NAVFAC Antigua; MSC Bremerhaven, Germany; US Embassy, Lisbon; Canadian Forces Maritime Command Halifax; Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, and Ramey Air Force Base.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, says the Graniteville train crash included the emission of chlorine gas, forcing the evacuation of 5,400 residents, death of nine people and the treatment of 250 for chlorine exposure.
Lloyd Mackall, For the Georgetown Times, Waccamaw Times and Inlet Outlook (29576 Zip Code), Public Relations based in Wachesaw East Plantation, 9 Palmetto Place, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576 843-651-4610 See my YouTube videos on www.YouTube.com/i3DStereo or www.YouTube.com/CoastalDigital
By Lloyd Mackall
For The Times
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