Flag retirement signals reorganization of local Guard units

The changes for the National Guard units in Barnwell and Allendale will be more than just a different unit flag to designate them.

The 265th, 266th and 267th Quartermaster detachments of the South Carolina National Guard held a retirement of flags ceremony Feb. 7 to formally acknowledge the three detachments have been reorganized under one flag, that of the 741st Quartermaster Company.

Combining the three detachments and reorganizing them under a company level will mean an upgrade for the National Guard armories in Barnwell and Allendale in terms of personnel and equipment. The Army will be investing $4 million in each of the armories, said 1st Sgt. Ronnie Jackson.

The 265th, 266th and 267th consisted of only 16 soldiers within each detachment. Now with the reorganization into a company, its troop strength will be boosted to about 188 soldiers, he said.

However, the mission for this area's National Guard units will remain the same - purifying and storing water to support troops in the field.

As the soldiers stood at attention, the flags for the 265th, 266th and 267th were rolled and sheathed before the new 741st flag was unfurled.

"We are beefing up in case of deployment," said Capt. Richard Gordon of Charleston. The 741st is under his command.

The changes the two armories are undergoing have been in the works for about a year, he said.

The armories will be getting more equipment, including additional Humvees, trucks and eight ROWPUs or Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units, Gordon said.

The units will also get two water storage tanks, one holding 20,000 gallons and another 50,000 gallons of water. These tanks are like large inflatable bladders that can be set up in the field, he said.

ROWPUs are vehicles about the size of a semi truck that can process water into drinkable (potable) water for troops to use. One ROWPU can process about 3,000 gallons an hour or about 24,000 gallons in an eight-hour shift, Jackson said.

One mobile ROWPU cost about $1 million and is superior to the smaller water purifying units that the detachments previously had in that it has a larger processing capacity. Also the mobile ROWPUs can process seawater, which the smaller units could not, he said.

Reverse osmosis is the process where dirty water is forced through a filtering membrane at high pressure to remove material and waterborne contaminants.

The newly designated 741st will have a greater mission and expanded capabilities to handle state or federal operations as needed, said Col. Van McCarty with the 59th Troop Command, who came from West Columbia to speak during the ceremony.

The Barnwell and Allendale National Guard armories are under the 59th Troop Command.

During the ceremony, McCarty encouraged the National Guard personnel assembled in formation to seize this "unique opportunity" and continue the level of quality service that the history of the three detachments has shown in the past.

McCarty's remarks were interrupted briefly when one soldier passed out. The soldier was carried to a back room and attended to while the troops reformed ranks.

The National Guard units in Barnwell and Allendale have been reorganized five times since they were federally recognized in 1947 as Company H, 2nd Battalion, 118th Infantry.

The units were reconfigured three other times since then into transportation or armored units. In 1985, the units gained the designations of 265th, 266th and 267th Quartermaster detachments.

The units have been activated and used for civilian help during Hurricanes Hugo and Katrina and have been deployed during Operation Desert Storm and the current conflicts in Iraqi and Afghanistan.