Overseas deployment and mission in Washington capped a long 15 months of duty
By Bob Gecy
SSG Brandon D. Bright, Contributing
The National Guard started in Massachusetts, December 13, 1636, as a defensive force against native threats to protect the citizens and their property.
Today the National Guard continues the mission of protecting our neighbors during emergencies and natural disasters as well as deploying to defend the nation, on foreign soil.
According to Staff Sergeant Brandon Bright, “We have been in every war or conflict in the history of the US. The unit here in Fountain Inn has served in just about every flood, hurricane, or winter storm that I can think of in the last almost ten years that I have been in the Battalion. The unit has served in Japan, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Bosnia, and more in the past 20 years.”
In August 2019, as part of the 4th Battalion 118th Infantry Regiment (Combined Arms Battalion), attached to the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, in support of operation inherent resolve, members of the Fountain Inn National Guard were deployed. They joined a unit of soldiers in Kuwait and Syria and began running missions as an infantry unit, such as patrols, security, and base defense operations. Bright added, “We shared training missions with our partners in Kuwait, conducted several large-scale training events ourselves, including holding the first expert soldiers badge competition for the National Guard.”
In November 2020, the unit was rotated back to the United States. They returned to another crisis, COVID-19! They now had to deal with masks, social distancing, vaccinations and all the political turmoil and rioting during the summer. After a brief demobilization process. They returned to Fountain Inn, to their home and their families only to be asked to serve again. They were called up in January 2021 to assist the state and nation, this time in Washington DC.
With a few hours’ notice and a couple days to prepare, they mustered their Soldiers, packed several days’ worth of supplies, and loaded buses bound for the nation’s capital. Upon arrival they were given some briefings, sworn in as Special Police, then taken to hotel rooms to rest, given some food to eat (pizza donated by the VFW Post 9273). Later the next day began their first missions protecting the capital area and supporting the US people and their right to peacefully protest.
While their missions in Kuwait and Syria were confidential, their assignment in Washington was very transparent.
They were bussed to their assignments from hotels around the city and in neighboring Virginia. News reports of them sleeping in parking garages was erroneous. Sgt. Bright said they were using the parking garages as a mustering area awaiting each day’s assignment. The unit was awarded a special Inauguration ribbon for their service.
They are home now, back with their families, jobs, and friends. Sgt. Bright added these comments, “As Soldiers we signed up for this, our families for the most part, did not. When we are gone our families are left to handle life without us. Every mission plays its toll on the ones we leave behind, be it a short call to duty for a state mission, a regularly scheduled or an additional training event, or a long tour deployment overseas, the family left here have their hardships. The National Guard tries to mitigate it and offers numerous plans, events, hotlines to call, organizations to be a part of websites to visit, training before and after a mobilization for family, but even still, the hardships are there. Life’s little bumps are ever present and when we are not there to give that extra hand and it has its effects. For instance, we might not be there to help our brother on the day he moves to a new house, or help shop for our children’s birthday gifts, or work on the family car the time it broke down and we were not there to fix it, so someone must be paid. There are all sorts of things that we miss out on, but the family must do it without us. We have all the technology now where we can Facetime or Skype call but the internet’s not always the best on the other side of the world in a desert. The 8 hours of difference in time causes issues with who is awake to talk to if internet is working. So, our families endure their own hardships as we endure ours.”
The South Carolina National Guard unit in Fountain Inn will restock and retrain and be ready for the next assignment.
How different is the Guard from the Army reserve?
They basically have the same requirements. The main difference between the guard and the Army reserves is that the Guard has a state and federal mission. Whereas the Army reserves only has a federal mission. Another huge difference is the reserves only provide support roles, whereas the National Guard has combat arms and support roles just as the active Army component.■