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Gen. Grass visits Vigilant Guard in South Carolina

U.S. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and distinguished visitors observe a simulated rescue and recovery operation, at Choppee Recreation Complex in Georgetown, S.C., during Vigilant Guard South Carolina, March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

U.S. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and distinguished visitors observe a simulated rescue and recovery operation, at Choppee Recreation Complex in Georgetown, S.C., during Vigilant Guard South Carolina, March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr. (left), the Adjutant General for the state of South Carolina, shakes hands with Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the conclusion of a visit conducted to observe integrated military and civilian operations during Vigilant Guard South Carolina, March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr. (left), the Adjutant General for the state of South Carolina, shakes hands with Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the conclusion of a visit conducted to observe integrated military and civilian operations during Vigilant Guard South Carolina, March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

U.S. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and distinguished visitors tour the United Service Organizations (USO) mobile canteen during Vigilant Guard South Carolina at the Georgetown Airport in Georgetown, S.C., March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

U.S. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and distinguished visitors tour the United Service Organizations (USO) mobile canteen during Vigilant Guard South Carolina at the Georgetown Airport in Georgetown, S.C., March 9, 2015. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh S. Pavelek/Released)

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. -- The National Guard's top officer got a first-hand look at training taking place at Vigilant Guard this week.

Chief, National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank J. Grass visited multiple venues in Georgetown County during the exercise to get an up-close look at joint training between National Guard, emergency management and first responder personnel. Grass praised the participants of Vigilant Guard.

"I saw a lot of great coordination between local, state and federal government agencies," Grass said. "There is no better place to train than right here where a disaster could strike. You are susceptible to hurricanes and other types of disasters."

Grass said he was impressed with the coordination between first responders and the National Guard.

"One of the very best I've seen," Grass said of Vigilant Guard. "Our men and women are learning from the first responders."

Grass observed water rescue operations, simulated patient care at Choppee Recreation Complex and search and rescue conducted by the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. Grass also visited the United Services Organization Mobile Canteen and the Carolinas Healthcare MED-1 mobile hospital during a tour of exercise activities conducted near Georgetown County airport.

In the exercise scenario, a Category 4 hurricane, named Zephyr, batters the South Carolina coast and moves into North Carolina causing widespread damage. The National Guard, in support of local and state emergency management offices, provides resources for disaster response.

"Having Gen. Grass here was an excellent experience," said Sam Hodge, Georgetown County Emergency Management Director. "He had a chance to see some of the great work happening here and our people were thrilled to welcome him and show our hard work."

During the week, the National Guard is training in numerous scenarios including water purification, ferrying vehicles across the Sampit River, wellness checks and mass casualty recovery drills. More than 2,000 National Guardsmen from multiple states are participating in Vigilant Guard which runs March 3-12. South Carolina also hosted Vigilant Guard in 2008.

General Grass serves as the 27th Chief, National Guard Bureau and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he serves as a military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council, and is the Department of Defense's official channel of communication to the Governors and State Adjutants General on all matters pertaining to the National Guard. He is responsible for ensuring that the more than 470,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and Air Force.