Kevin Shwedo, executive director of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and a former deputy commander at Fort Jackson, has been named the Palmetto State's Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.
The CASA, as it is called, is a civilian position that carries the equivalent protocol rank of three-star general. Shwedo, 61, was sworn in Monday by acting secretary Ryan McCarthy at a ceremony at the Pentagon.
The CASA’s job is to promote good relations between the Army and the public and advising the secretary on regional issues. In Shwedo’s case, that would mean preserving the 7,000 or so jobs at Columbia’s Fort Jackson, the nation’s largest basic training center.
“Fort Jackson is already the largest basic training post in the United States,” said Shwedo, a retired colonel who retain his duties at the DMV. “From my perspective, that mission should only grow.”
“It is the only basic training site in the Army where the commanding general and his command sergeant major’s primary function is training soldiers,” he added. “I think Fort Jackson will continue to be the preeminent basic training site for the United States. And I would suggest that the mission will grow as we expand our requirements for new troops.”
Fort Jackson trains up to 70,000 troops each year. About 50,000 of those are new soldiers, and the rest are engaged in advanced training from drill sergeants to chaplains.
Bill Bethea, a Bluffton attorney who serves as the chairman of the S.C. Military Base Task Force, said Shwedo’s choice is a good one.
“Kevin has been a loyal and active supporter of the Army for years,” he said. “He’s very knowledgeable in military affairs, and I think he’ll do a good job.”
Shwedo, who grew up in New York and Ohio, served as a battalion commander at Fort Jackson from 1995 to 1997, as a brigade commander from 2000 to 2002, and as deputy commander of the fort from 2007 to 2011.
Upon his retirement from the Army in 2011, he was tapped by then-Gov. Nikki Haley as executive director of the DMV. She again leaned on the 32-year Army veteran to head the state’s recovery efforts from the 2015 floods.
Each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have one or more CASA appointed to provide a vital link between the Army and the communities for which they serve. CASA are usually business or civic leaders who possess a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and their communities.
CASA serve a two-year term without compensation. Terms may be extended to a total of 10 years of service. The secretary may recognize a civilian aide as a CASA emeritus after 10 years of distinguished service.
Previous CASA in South Carolina include former Columbia Mayor Patton Adams; the late Ike McLeese, former president and CEO of the Columbia Chamber; and, most recently, Columbia restauranteur Bill Dukes.
CASA tend to be Midlands-centric due to the presence of Fort Jackson and the S.C National Guard headquarters in Columbia, as well as U.S. Army Central Command at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. Those are the largest Army presences in South Carolina.
Dukes said he nominated Shwedo as his replacement.
“I am happy that the ... secretary considered my nomination among several others and selected Kevin,” he said. “I appreciate all the support I received during the past 3-plus years. It was an honor to serve as the CASA and to support the soldiers and their families of the United States Army.”
Retired Col. Kevin Shwedo
Named: Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army
Currently: Executive director of the SC Department of Motor Vehicles
Prior: Fort Jackson Deputy Commander
Grown children: Cameron and Ryan
Length of Army service: 32 years