Politics & Government

McMaster’s first job as acting governor? Meeting military commanders

Henry McMaster won’t become South Carolina’s next governor until sometime next year. But he will start filling the role Friday.

That is when McMaster will preside over a commanders’ briefing from the heads of the South Carolina’s military bases – a role normally filled by the governor.

The annual governor’s briefing brings together the commanding officers of all S.C. military installations to discuss issues facing the bases and military personnel in the Palmetto State. McMaster’s appearance at the Friday meeting will be the first time the lieutenant governor will be acting in the role of the state’s chief executive.

Bill Bethea, chairman of the S.C. Military Base Task Force, said the task force hasn’t had any interaction with McMaster in his two years as the state’s second-in-command. Bethea and task force executive coordinator Charlie Farrell will meet with the lieutenant governor Thursday to “give him a heads up.”

“I’ve known the lieutenant governor for many years, but ... this will be our first interaction with him in an official capacity,” said Bethea, a Bluffton attorney.

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Outgoing Gov. Nikki Haley – who will leave office if her nomination to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is confirmed – has been active on military issues for the last six years, Bethea said, and the task force is looking forward to working with McMaster in the same vein.

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to have him there. It gives the base commanders a chance to get to him right out of the box,” Bethea said.

The task force is made up of appointed members from communities that host military bases, and meets regularly with command officers from Fort Jackson, Joint Base Charleston, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Recruiting Station Parris Island and Shaw Air Force Base, as well as the S.C. National Guard.

The task force’s primary mission is to ward off potential base closures by the federal government, but it also serves as a forum for issues affecting service members, veterans and military retirees.

One focus of the task force, currently, is assistance for military children who have to change schools when their parents redeploy, Bethea said. “It’s not a national defense-oriented issue, but it’s a morale-oriented issue.”

McMaster’s office did not return a request for comment ahead of Friday’s meeting.

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