COLUMBIA - Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, South Carolina's adjutant general, lauded the state's Army and Air Force National Guard as one of the nation's top military organizations Tuesday and asked voters to re-elect him so he can work to keep it that way.
"We take care of our troops because they have taken care of us," said Livingston, flanked by his family as he made his announcement at Republican Party headquarters in Columbia.
The adjutant general oversees the state's 11,000-member Military Department, which includes the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, the State Guard and the state's Emergency Management Division.
Livingston was elected to the post in 2010 after running unopposed.
In 2008, Livingston led the state's largest military deployment since World War II while in charge of about 9,000 South Carolina Guard members who deployed for a year to Afghanistan.
In the June 10 GOP primary, Livingston faces William Breazeale of Florence, an airline pilot and former Army officer who says his 20 years of military service in Iraq and Kuwait provide him with the experience for the job.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Breazeale said he believes he can work out some methods to help save the federal government money, such as agreeing with an Army proposal to strip the National Guard in eight states of their Apache combat helicopters and offer them Blackhawk transports instead.
"I want to give them back," Breazeale said of the helicopters. "I believe in saving dollars if we can."
Livingston opposes the plan, saying the units and their choppers represent years of combat experience that would be lost if such units were disbanded in the Guard.
In his remarks, Livingston said South Carolina is "unique" in that it is the only state in the nation to put its top military officer on the general election ballot.
Therefore, he said it is vital that the job be filled by someone who has commanded large military units and can deal with other officers in the Pentagon on an equal basis.
"It's key that you have someone who is well experienced in combat as a senior leader, and as a general officer, and have that experience in Washington," Livingston said.
Susanne M. Schafer can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/susannemarieap