Originally created 03/12/98

S.C. National Guard commander says he plans to seek re-election



COLUMBIA -- Maj. Gen. Stanhope Spears, who has directed the South Carolina National Guard as the Guard increasingly has been used in international affairs, will seek a second term as its commander.

Maj. Gen. Spears, 60, made his plans for another term as adjutant general official Wednesday, and he lauded the Guard's work in several overseas operations.

"The past four years have been the most exciting time of my life," he said. "I have traveled around the world and can tell you the South Carolina National Guard has earned the worldwide reputation as a world-class organization."

The 169th Fighter Wing, headquartered at McEntire Air National Guard Base in Eastover, in 1996 became the first Guard or Reserve unit selected for Air Force expeditions to the Middle East. Pilots and crews served 45-day tours in Qatar.

In 1997, 225 Army guardsmen were deployed to Bosnia and Hungary in support of peacekeeping efforts. Other units have been among the first to convert to new equipment.

"Our focus has become increasingly global as the active forces have been drawn down," Maj. Gen. Spears said.

He was elected in 1994 as a Democrat, but became a Republican shortly after taking office. He has no announced opposition.

South Carolina is the only state that elects its National Guard commander.