“Our main objective is to keep the community safe,” 1st Sgt. Donnell Shuler of the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety said during Saturday’s joint emergency preparedness exercise with the South Carolina National Guard’s Company B, 218th Brigade Support Battalion.
“It takes these exercises to better our training,” 218th Brigade Support Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Ervin Capers said. “We get feedback from local agencies and give them feedback. Together we are here to help the community.”
Brigade units from Orangeburg, Hampton/Varnville and Walterboro switched armories for the exercise, with Orangeburg traveling to the Walterboro Armory.
The National Guard personnel were briefed by law enforcement and first responders as to how they would work together in the event of a natural disaster.
“We will all work together for the good of the community,” Shuler told members of Alpha Company 218 BSB of Walterboro. “The Alpha Company would be responsible for water purification, fuel and dispersion of rations.”
Shuler, a former member of Alpha Company, said law enforcement would facilitate security, evacuation plans and traffic in a disaster. “Sometimes during a disaster, the Governor will activate martial law. At that time, soldiers would be paired up with local police. Our main objective is to keep the community safe. We are responsible to keep order,” he said.
National Guard armories and local high schools would be set up as shelters and law enforcement, the American Red Cross, EMS and Fire Services would have a presence at these shelters, along with the National Guard, Shuler said. “If an area was deemed unsafe, the National Guard would be responsible for keeping people away,” he said.
“We will be enforcing all laws, rules and regulations that we are responsible to uphold.”
Alpha Company demonstrated radio communications and mobile GPS using the Blue Force Tracker.
“The purpose of this exercise is to link with first responders at points of contact,” said 2LT Sims of Alpha Company.
Capt. Stephanie Bear of the Hampton/Varnville unit noted, “We will provide personnel and supplies where they are needed. We will provide logistical support for the entire area.”
1st Sgt. Robert Shiver said he had seen disaster firsthand. His unit was activated and deployed to St. Charles Parish in Louisiana for 15 days after Hurricane Katrina.
“We stayed in a gymnasium at a local elementary school,” he said. “We provided the people with support and supplies.”
The Orangeburg 218th specializes in maintenance support.
“We keep everything working,” Sgt. 1st Class Still said while installing a Blue Force Tracker in a command vehicle.
Capt. Latasha O’Neil of the Orangeburg 218th recapped the day’s events.
“It is important that we are prepared in case of a natural disaster. We are part of a community. We must stay connected with people throughout the region,” she said. “Today was important in giving soldiers familiarity with sister armories, vehicle and equipment training and leadership opportunities.”
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