By Capt. Jessica Donnelly | South Carolina National GuardSeptember 3, 2019
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A hurricane looms in the ocean, threatening to make landfall. The South Carolina governor declares a state of emergency in preparation for the storm. The South Carolina National Guard answers the call to support the citizens in this time of need. Who ensures service members' families have the support they need during this time?
This is the role of the South Carolina National Guard Service Member and Family Care (SMFC) directorate.
"We are here to help support our military families," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Marion Bulwinkle, SMFC director.
The mission of SMFC is to provide resources and assistance to South Carolina National Guard Soldiers, Airmen, and their families. These resources range from employment and financial help, youth activities, and even disaster relief support.
"This hurricane is a stressful event, no matter what role you play at home or within our organization," said Grace Parsons, South Carolina National Guard State Family Programs director.
Due to the stresses that come with having a service member away from home, the South Carolina National Guard SMFC directorate is working to contact the families of those mobilized Soldiers and Airmen, as well as those whose home of record is currently in the potential impact zone of the hurricane to ensure they have the support they need.
There is also a Family Assistance hotline that is a toll-free number for South Carolina National Guard families in need of assistance with hurricane preparedness, and those impacted by disaster, 1-800-317-5553. The number is operational 24-hours a day throughout South Carolina National Guard disaster response efforts and managed by trained Family Assistance specialists.
"They stand ready to specifically serve our Guard families so that our Soldiers and Airmen may remain focused on their military duties," added Parsons.
The South Carolina National Guard is made up of more than 10,000 Soldiers and Airmen, and approximately 20 percent of the force is mobilized in the state for hurricane response, or somewhere in the nation or overseas in support of federal missions, explained Parsons.
"That is a plethora of families who are 'minus one,' and in some cases 'minus two,' as we have many dual-military families in our Guard," said Parsons.
For those service members who are activated in support of the hurricane response, the South Carolina National Guard ensures they are provided the resources they need, as well. The logistics office for the organization coordinates food and water, hygiene facilities, laundry services, and shelter for all Soldiers and Airmen mobilized to provide response efforts in support of civilian authorities.
"Our job is to be ready to assist our state during a time of need, but we also need to ensure we take care of our Soldiers and Airmen who are activated away from their families," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, adjutant general for South Carolina. "There are resources and programs in place within the organization; the service members and families need to reach out when they need the support."
If there are any issues that a Soldier or Airman is facing during disaster response, they should notify their chain of command or SMFC at 1-800-317-5553.
"It is okay to ask for help if you are struggling leading up to, during, and following this event," said Parsons. "It's okay not to know how to handle certain life situations and to reach out. You are not alone. This is good, convenient, and free help is available."
The South Carolina National Guard is capable of supporting this emergency in response to Hurricane Dorian with multiple assets to include evacuation assistance, manning traffic control points, supply and sandbag transportation, water purification, security support, critical infrastructure protection, high-water vehicle transportation and evacuation, search and rescue, communication support, debris clearing, and more all in support of civilian partners.