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February Chief's Perspective

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Thomas, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for the South Carolina National Guard and State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Nov. 6, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Thomas, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for the South Carolina National Guard and State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Nov. 6, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

What is a Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL) anyway? The CSEL is the senior enlisted leader in a state. A few months ago I was selected to serve as the interim CSEL for the South Carolina National Guard and am honored to be the first South Carolina Air National Guardsmen to hold this position. As the CSEL I serve as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to South Carolina Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Van McCarty. I am also dual hatted as the SCANG’s State Command Chief.  We will be hiring my successor as the State Command Chief later this year.

In this new role as the CSEL, I have hit the ground running and endured a steep learning curve in all things Army. I have been welcomed with open arms from our Army brothers and sisters who have been interested in a 'Blue' perspective.  I have had several Army and Air Guard members reach out to me asking to work with their sister agency. We have collaborated with cyber, systems, the chaplain corps and many other areas to work together to make the South Carolina National Guard a better organization.

One of the best things about being a Senior Enlisted Leader is hearing the stories from our Airmen and Soldiers and helping them with issues they may have. We have some of the most impressive Americans in the world serving in the South Carolina National Guard. I constantly hear stories about our guardsmen in their great civilian careers or serving their communities across the state. They make us all proud.

On a much different and very serious note, suicide continues to affect the National Guard on a national level. During the end of last year, the South Carolina Army National Guard had three Soldiers die by suicide in a ten day period. We continue to pray for the families and friends of those guardsmen.  Thankfully a few weeks after that we had a few Soldiers who came forward to ask for mental health assistance. We encourage Soldiers and Airmen to seek mental health if needed. There is a myth that if you ask to speak to a mental health professional that it will end your career or you will receive an other than honorable discharge. That is simply not true.  We have had members of the South Carolina National Guard who have sought mental health and asked to be released from the National Guard. They were given their release with an honorable discharge. We have also had guardsmen who are normally armed who sought mental health. They did have their weapons taken away for a week. But they were back on duty a week later with their weapon.  Many times our guardsmen just need to talk to a counselor just to have someone to listen to them and that is OK. If you feel your career is being negatively affected because you sought mental health please reach out to me.

I am sincerely honored and blessed to be serving as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader of the South Carolina National Guard.