COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Beautiful places, smiling faces; it’s one of South Carolina’s motto. The slogan is a testament to the friendly demeanor of its residents and destinations you only see in magazines.
But South Carolina can also claim being one of the most military friendly states in the country. There are 10 recognized military installments scattered across the state from the Charleston coast to the capitol.
Located in Columbia, Fort Jackson dominates in producing new soldiers. The base’s training helps keep the country’s defense line strong.
“Each year you roughly have 100k veterans that are transitioning. We call them “Soldiers for Life.” Either they’re retiring or some other means, but we bring in 45k upward to 50k of that every single year,” explained Brigadier General Milford Beagle, the commanding general of Fort Jackson.
Thousands soldiers rotate into the base every few weeks to train to protect the country.
Commander Beagle continued, “The training is in three phases; red white and blue. It’s very easy to remember because it’s the colors of the flags. But the first 3 weeks deal with physical fitness and discipline.”
Fort Jackson also has specialty areas like providing training for agencies like the FBI and even recruitment for the Navy.
“Every sailor that’s deployed anywhere in the globe comes through Fort Jackson. And we also have what’s called a lot of force that’s here. The FBI, CIA; they train here as well because we have the only facility that trains polygraphers,” added Commander Beagle.
About 20 miles down the road in Eastover at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, soldiers and airmen serve in the name of heroes.
Captain Stephen Hudson with the 169th Fighter Wing provided some background on how the base was founded.
“The base is called McEntire. It’s named after Brigadier Barney B. McEntire, who sacrificed himself in an aircraft in Pennsylvania. The engine went out and instead of ejecting and letting the plane crash he crashed the plane and killed himself.”
The base houses the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force; a specialty combination.
Captain Hudson continued, “We have the latest F-16 in the Air Force inventory and we also have the Apache on the Army Guard side and the heavy lifting like the Blackhawk.”
The base’s unique terrain and equipment allows the base to offer opportunities for unique training soldiers can’t get anywhere else.
“We can turn the base off shut the gates turn everything off, kill the power and then we can have special operations; the rangers, they can actually take the base, attack the base,” added Captain Hudson.
The other bases located in Charleston, Sumter, and Beaufort also play unique roles in the nation’s defense. The bases also generate billions of dollars for the state.
Charlie Farrell serves as the executive coordinator for the SC Military Base Task Force. The special group was created to make sure the state’s bases remain open.
“The military in South Carolina is a $25.3 billion industry. I don’t know if we’re number one or two between tourism,” explained Farrell. Soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines in the state train 24/7, 365. And when those men and women hang up their uniform the support continues.
Commander Beagle outlined the resources Fort Jackson offers its transitioning soldiers.
“You’re a soldier for life whatever capacity that may be. So we give them about a year to make that transition and the community plays a huge role in that in the opportunities they have with the job fair, there’s a lot classes and courses colleges offer.”
Shirley Rouse-Rainey is a retired sergeant. Rouse-Rainey highlighted the resources in the community that support her and her military experience.
“I’m engaged in the Drill Sergeant Association, the women’s group, the V.F.W, the American Legion, it’s a lot of ties and everyone has the same goal which is serving the soldiers.”
More than 430,000 veterans live in South Carolina applying valuable lessons learned while in uniform to their lives outside of combat.
Rouse-Rainey added, “I’m very resilient, and everyone I know in the military is resilient and that’s being able to overcome, walk forward, and do what you need to do.”
Captain Hudson outlined the values he applies daily. “We have these values in the Air Force. Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do and I think I try to instill that in everything I do.”
Commander Beagle echoed those sentiments. “Just being a part of a team that is something that has always driven me because when you’re part of a team it’s not about you or what you do it’s about being a part of that team.”
And here in the palmetto state that team is “Team South Carolina.”