On only one day of the year will you find so many military commanders together in one room in South Carolina. Once a year the governor calls the various base commanders together for a briefing, so they can brief HIM on important issues. That meeting was held Tuesday.
South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom co-chairs the Military Bask Task Force, formerly known as the Base Realignment and Closure Task Force, which was established as an advisory committee to the governor on military matters.Eckstrom says state government and the military should work closely together, to assure that the bases stay strong. Bases depend on the state for connecting roads. “No military can fund that sort of construction outside their gates. The state brings their traffic in.”
The state’s help is particularly important as existing bases grow their missions and their size. Shaw Airforce Base in Sumter will soon house the Third Army Command Unit now located near Atlanta, adding more than 1000 personnel, bringing a few thousand additional people to the area. Ninety-three million dollars in new facilities are being added. MacIntire Guard Base south of Columbia is boosting its responsibilities by as much as 40 percent. Ft. Jackson in Columbia will soon house a number of new training programs for the Army, including a chaplain school that will serve all branches of the military.
Retired General George Patrick leads the Military Base Task Force which coordinates the annual get-together. He says that when the military downsized its facilities in 2005, South Carolina benefited, and that’s what his task force is all about. “Our concern is that we didn’t want to risk loosing viable military installations, like we did in the ’90’s, when we lost the Navy base and an air force base. We wanted to make sure our communities were engaged in this, as well as our political folks.”