South Carolina's National Guard armories are crumbling, vulnerable to terrorists, and putting soldiers at risk

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22163602

In 2005, when former S.C. Adjutant General Bob Livingston went to the Bamberg armory, he saw a startling site.

It was raining, and a soldier was walking through the armory with an umbrella because there were so many leaks in the roof.

"It was comical, but sad at the same time," Livingston said. "But it illustrated what sad shape the armories were in."

Today, 16 of the S.C. Guard's 63 armories are listed as "poor" by the U.S. Army, and many more are considered only "fair" and may drop to "poor" soon, according to Col. Brigham Dobson, the S.C. Guard's Construction and Facilities Management Officer.

They need new roofs, electrical system, heating and air systems, and security measures. Bathrooms and offices need to be upgraded and parking lots and sidewalks repaired.

Rundown and outdated armories hurt the Guard on several levels, Dobson said.

  • They hinder recruitment, because potential soldiers don't want to work in rundown facilities.
  • They adversely affect retention of soldiers for the same reasons.
  • They negatively impact the morale of the soldiers who do join and stay.
  • They don't have adequate bathroom and shower facilities for the growing number of female soldiers.
  • Of most concern, the old armories don't have proper security systems that would prevent terrorist attacks, Dobson said.

"The armories don't support the soldier of today," he said.

The legislature has been allocating $1.55 million annually for armory renovations, and have been adding one-time money for the past few years.

So far, armories in Greenville, Greenwood and Lancaster have undergone full renovations. Workers are now conducting interior demolition on the Florence armory. The Sumter and Easley armories are in the design phase.

But armories in Andrews, Barnwell, Conway, Dillon, Eastover, Greer, Hemingway, Laurens, Marion, McCormick (scheduled for demolition), Orangeburg, Saluda, Seneca, and Timmonsville also need overhauls.

And many of the remaining 47 armories also need work to keep them off the "poor" list.

So the Guard this year is asking for an additional $3.5 million. That would allow the renovation of two armories a year, as well some less comprehensive renovations .

"If you can't do a complete renovation, you might be able to do a smaller job that would keep an armory off the 'poor' list," Dobson said.

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©2019 The State (Columbia, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.