More S.C. National Guardsmen are likely to be armed on duty as a result of last week’s lone-wolf, ambush-style killings of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tenn., Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday. Haley’s announcement came as she and the S.C. National Guard headquarters confirmed that a check of all state Guard sites is being launched this week to determine where there are weaknesses.
“The safety of our men and women in uniform is paramount, and I fully expect that this rolling review, starting this week, will result in the arming of some of our guardsmen,” Haley said.
Military recruiters, however, will remain unarmed because the recruiting offices are located in civilian areas, according to the Pentagon. A spokeswoman for Army recruiting offices said no change in that policy is anticipated.
Leslie Ann Sully, public affairs officer for the Army recruiting battalion that includes South Carolina, said all the normal protective procedures are in place since last Thursday’s attack.
Details on how guard members will be armed still need to be worked out, but Col. Cynthia King said more soldiers likely will be authorized to carry weapons.
“We’re going to arm the National Guard appropriate to the current threat,” the spokeswoman said.
Presently, only National Guardsmen who have security duties are armed on a regular basis.
The announcement came five days after lone gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, drove to a military recruiting office and to a Navy-Marine operations center in Chattanooga, opening fire at both places. Four Marines were killed, and a sailor wounded in the attack died Saturday from his wounds. Abdulazeez also died.
After the shootings, Republican governors in at least six states, including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Florida, authorized National Guard commanders to arm personnel at military bases, and in some cases, recruiting offices.
U.S. military installations in South Carolina have not announced heightened security procedures since the attack, but most are gated and have security that includes armed guards, car checks and pass-verification procedures.
Haley and S.C. Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston said the review will look at the safety and security of service members, their families and Guard facilities across the state. It will include vulnerability assessments of all recruitment stations, facilities and installations.
Based on what officials find, it’s likely to be that “designated officials will be armed at recruitment stations, facilities and installations across the state, as necessary,” the announcement said.
Other activities include continuing active shooter exercises with local law enforcement; coordination and training with law enforcement; improving police contact methods; and improving all physical security measures at guard facilities based on their vulnerability.
Advocates of the guard said they hoped the review ordered this week would result in new protections.
“I think protecting guardsmen is a priority of the adjutant general, and putting in place plans would provide the necessary stability for guardsmen to be a harder target for those who would like to do us harm,” said state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, who has served in the Army National Guard since 1998.
Cynthia Roldan contributed to this story. Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551