MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Three members of Congress, South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, members of the South Carolina Legislature plus senior congressional staff spent March 5, 2021 with leaders of the South Carolina Military Department at McEntire Joint National Guard Base (JNGB), South Carolina. The purpose of the visit was to highlight the capabilities of McEntire JNGB for federal and state response as well as the benefits McEntire JNGB provides to the citizens of South Carolina. “We are honored to show our distinguished visitors McEntire’s value to our community, state and nation,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Akshai Gandhi, the 169th Fighter Wing Commander.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman and U.S. Rep. William Timmons were joined by South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, plus nearly 25 other elected leaders and their senior staff for an historic visit to McEntire JNGB. The group was greeted by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the Adjutant General of South Carolina. McCarty started the visit with a welcome briefing and overview of the day’s activities.
“Our facilities are a cornerstone of readiness. Today, you will explore our flagship installation unique nationally in its features and capabilities. McEntire is home to the 169th Fighter Wing of the South Carolina Air National Guard, Army Guard aviation units, the Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center and multiple supporting units. Fortunately we have the capacity to expand to extend and modernize as evidenced by our current strategic initiatives,” McCarty said.
After receiving a safety brief, the guests were taken to the Army Guard’s flight line where half of the group boarded South Carolina Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for an aerial orientation tour of McEntire JNGB. The other half were transported to the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron’s tower for a tour and demonstration.
The helicopter orientation flight highlighted several areas on base such as the pending main runway improvements, the new hazardous cargo pad and the future F-16/F-35 simulator facility. The 500 foot perspective also highlighted McEntire’s ideal rural location and lack of encroachment complications for next generation fighter aircraft basing.
During a working lunch, the visitors received a briefing from Gandhi and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Boris Armstrong, the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) Chief of Staff, who discussed future mission priorities at McEntire. The visitors also heard from first-term Airmen and Soldiers plus two members of the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe program about what the Guard means to them. Also during the lunch, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn was able to join his colleagues virtually from Washington D.C. via Zoom to participate in the discussion.
The congressional delegation visit occurred in the middle of the SCANG’s March “Super Drill” weekend which is a four-day training event instead of the usual two days. The SCANG is preparing for a real-world overseas deployment next month so after lunch, the delegation stopped by the personnel deployment processing line to observe how the SCANG prepares its Airmen to deploy. The congressional delegation also had a chance to speak one-on-one with Airmen from their own district.
Other highlights of the visit included a windshield tour of the base with stops at base operations for an Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation demonstration and at a medical tent for a Critical Care Action Team demonstration. The tour concluded with a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter orientation tour for the half that didn’t fly in the morning go as well as an AH-64 Apache helicopter simulator demonstration for the group that flew in the morning.