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S.C. Air National Guard promotes first African American general officer

  • Published
  • By Lt.Col. Jim St.Clair
The South Carolina National Guard's Assistant Adjutant General for Air (ATAG), Brig. Gen. Calvin H. Elam, was promoted during a ceremony at the brand new Multi Unit Readiness Center (MURC) at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Jan. 13. The MURC's 300 seat auditorium was filled to capacity to witness Elam make history when he became the SCANG's first black general officer.

South Carolina's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr. presided over the ceremony. "Cal has had a long and distinguished career in the Air Force and the South Carolina Air National Guard and this promotion to brigadier general culminates many years of hard work and dedicated service to his state and nation. He is the epitome of the citizen-airman," said Livingston.

Elam has served as the ATAG since January 2012. As a civilian, he is Chief Executive Officer for Elam Financial Group. The Greenwood, S.C. native began his military career in 1980 and spent six years in the active duty U.S. Air Force as an enlisted contracting specialist. In 1988 he graduated from the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business with a degree in business marketing and then received his commission after completing the Air National Guard's Academy of Military Science. Elam since has served in several key leadership positions with the South Carolina Air National Guard including Chief of Supply, Commander of the 169th Maintenance Squadron and Commander of the 169th Mission Support Group. Elam, his wife Mary and their three children reside in Irmo, S.C.

There were many Army and Air Guard general officers on hand at Sunday's ceremony including Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, S.C. Deputy Adjutant General, Maj Gen. Lester Eisner, Commander of the 228th Signal Brigade, Maj. Gen. Gregory Batts and the Director of the Air National Guard Readiness Center, Brig. Gen. Scott Williams.

Among the many local dignitaries present was Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin who read a proclamation declaring January 13, 2013 as "Brigadier General Calvin H. Elam Day." In addition, Mayor Benjamin presented Elam with Columbia's Key to the City.

During his remarks, Livingston said, "There was unanimous agreement that the person to succeed (Brig. Gen.) Grady Patterson as ATAG was Cal Elam because not only has he done a great job coming up through the support arena in the Air National Guard here in South Carolina, but he has done the job of connecting with the community. Cal, congratulations on your past performance and let's see you put that star to work because your potential is unlimited."

After publishing the promotion order, Livingston, along with Elam's wife Mary and Elam's three children Forbes, Erin and April, pinned stars onto his uniform coat and hat to make it official. Livingston then administered the oath of office to Elam.

In his remarks, Elam thanked his family, friends and his fellow Swamp Foxes. "I didn't get here by myself. As a military leader you quickly learn, particularly as a commander, to take none of the credit and all of the blame." After sharing some personal reflections about his life and career, Elam concluded by saying, "The best piece of advice I received when I joined the military was from my uncle, a former Air Force guy, J. Randolph Elam. He said something one day that was so profound and stuck with me. He said to me, 'Son, whatever you do, don't stop 'til you quit.'"