Livingston uses military experience in political campaign 

Candidate making training, support his top priorities

Bob Livingston is a military guy running for a political office that runs a military organization.

South Carolina is the only state in the country where the everyday voters elect an adjutant general, a position which is primarily responsible for overseeing the state's national guard, as well as emergency management operations.

A major general, Livingston led a battalion in Afghanistan that included troops from 18 different nations, including 1,800 from South Carolina.

He says he decided to jump into the race based on his experience training troops for deployment and taking care of their families before and after the mission.

"I know I have a unique understanding of what it takes," Livingston says.

Calling this "purely a passion thing," he says that he's not looking to climb a political ladder, and he's not going to make a career out of the state's top military position.

"After four years, I'll be very tired," Livingston says, noting at most he'll do two terms. "If it takes eight years, I'll be toast."

In Afghanistan, Livingston says he didn't lead his troops from behind a desk. He visited 180 of the 240 sites where men were positioned under his command.

"I'm one of those who believes in leading from the front," he says.

The key to his success in the battlefield came from understanding the task at hand before the troops got there. It's something that he wants to carry throughout the state's military system.

"Whatever the mission — be it homeland security or a disaster mission — as a leader I will be involved in the training to make sure we are properly preparing people," Livingston says.

Families also need to be prepared for the hardships they'll face during deployment. That means on-the-ground family involvement and coordinating the various nonprofit and community groups that provide aid independently.

"People who come back are having a difficult time adjusting to society," Livingston says. "We don't find out about them until it has gotten to a breaking point. We've gotten a lot better, but it's not just bringing in program information. It's reaching out to them on a personal basis."

He also wants to run a tighter, fiscally responsible ship.

"We do a very effective job of defending our country and taking care of our country in the event of a natural disaster," he says. But there's a but. "We don't always do an efficient job of that."

For that challenge, Livingston points to his civilian life as the owner of a Midlands electrical company.

Military brass have recently initiated a review of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Livingston says he's confident that the South Carolina guardsmen would be able to adapt to a change in the policy.

"We will probably have some individual challenges," he says. "But, overall, military people are well-disciplined. We're serving because we want to serve our country."

The military has always been able to adjust to the changing nature of social issues, Livingston says.

"Because of our common mission and our bond with one another — you get into combat and you don't care."

In other election news, a recent Winthrop University poll shows us what we already know — among the gubernatorial candidates from both parties, everyone is suffering from name recognition. The exclusions are Attorney General Henry McMaster, who makes headlines for his day job, and Lt. Gov. André Bauer, who makes headlines for everything but his day job.

The real test comes in the next few weeks, as candidates spend some time and money to introduce themselves. Fundraising reports in early April paired with fresh polling should tell us who's found traction.


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