PICKENS—Sgt. Maj. Larry Sweat of the South Carolina State Guard made a stop at the Pickens County Rotary Club last week to speak on the organizations role emergency preparedness.
Sweat is in the second brigade of the Upstate’s State Guard, and says the organizations involvement during emergency is of vital importance.
“In the event of an emergency, called by the governor, we are first responders,” said Sweat. “We’re training for that now under our two new missions. One is the military emergency management specialist training, which we go through with the State Guard Association. We are boots on the ground for the first 48 hours (during an emergency), and we have to sustain independently.”
Sweat says the Guard provides other services along with emergency aid.
“We provide emergency treatment, and we train in first aid and security,” said Sweat.
The State Guard is a volunteer organization that currently lists about 1000 volunteers. Sweat says it differs from the National Guard in several key ways.
“The State Guard only serves in the state of South Carolina,” said Sweat. “When an emergency happens, we have boundaries. The National Guard is different because it is federal (and has no boundaries).”
The State Guard is not technically considered an armed force like the National Guard.
“The National Guard is an armed force, and at the present time, we aren’t doing arms training,” said Sweat. “We do have simulators that provide weapons training. We haven’t really been armed for many years now, but in the event of insurrection or invasion we will be armed again.”
While volunteers are continuing to increase, Sweat says the goal is to make the State Guard much bigger in case of emergency situation.
“We’ve been tasked to bring in five new recruits every month to build our force back to a good level,” said Sweat. “Right now some of our battalions are down to just a handful, so it’s really important to get the word out. We’ve raised the bar with our new reorganization and rank structure. We are going to be doing a lot more training with the National Guard.”