Vigilant Guard 17 is an exercise which provides the South Carolina National Guard an opportunity to create and improve relationships with different military and civilian agencies in the case of an emergency.
This year's scenario, a category three hurricane, is extremely relevant to the area considering the impact Hurricane Matthew had on the southeast region in October 2016.
"We are reacting to a natural disaster that has affected this area and we are supposed to work with the South Carolina National Guard to take water that isn't clean and make it drinkable," said U.S. Army Spc. Shameka McCaskill, Alpha Co., 218th Brigade Support Battalion.
Because of training exercises like Vigilant Guard, the Soldiers are able to remain proficient in water purification. In a real-world situation, they are able to produce 1,500 gallons of potable water from freshwater and 1,200 gallons from salt water in an hour.
Some of the Soldiers participating in the exercise, including McCaskill, have put their skills to work in real-world situations. McCaskill was able to use the skills she gained in the National Guard when activated during South Carolina's historic flooding in 2015.
"We were activated for three weeks and during that time we traveled throughout the state and brought clean drinking water to different communities," said McCaskill. "What I do is important because we [Guard Soldiers] come fully prepared to provide something that everyone needs to live. Having clean water is critical during a natural disaster."
Another Soldier able to put her water purification skills to work outside of the exercise is U.S. Army Sgt. Martika Burnett, Alpha Co., 348th BSB, Georgia National Guard. When not activated or training with her unit, Burnett is a licensed Class 3 surface water treatment officer. Partnering during Vigilant Guard provides her the opportunity to see how other states operate.
"I take what I learn here and use it at work and vice versa," said Burnett. "I was able to use the skills I gained in the Guard and turn it into a career."
Vigilant Guard 17 not only rewarded Soldiers with partnership opportunities and chances to hone skills, it also rewarded one Soldier specifically with recognition. Because of impressive performance during the water purification exercise, Spc. Courtney Robinson, Alpha Co., 218th BSB, South Carolina National Guard, was presented with an excellence coin from Lt. Col. Robert Lowe, 348th BSB battalion commander, Georgia National Guard.
"I just want to thank everyone for all of their hard work, especially the Georgia unit," said Robinson. "We really appreciate it and working with you all."