Story by Spc. Brian Calhoun and Sgt. Brad Mincey, 108th Public Affairs Detachment, South Carolina Army National Guard
GREENVILLE, S.C. – The city of Greenville hosted a Strategic Planning Conference Aug. 19-21, led by Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., South Carolina Adjutant General. Livingston is the elected leader of the South Carolina Army and Air National Guard, which is made of more than 11,000 citizen Soldiers and Airmen.
Unit commanders, first sergeants, officers and key enlisted members from South Carolina began the three-day conference, where Livingston unveiled his strategic plan to improve the levels of achievement and combat readiness.
A challenge facing every commander is the increase in operational tempo combined with congressional leaders' discussions of a decrease in the nation's military budget. It is important that all units maintain a high level of readiness and relevance. On Friday, Livingston made clear his vision and strategic plan for the men and women of the SCNG.
"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 asking National Guard Soldiers and Airmen 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," said Livingston. "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 in 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 South Carolina 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 during the morning back briefs 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 creative 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 F16 fighter wing in the Air Force, not just in the Guard."
Although this conference was a great 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.