Maj. Gen. Stanhope Spears is hanging up his uniform after four terms as South Carolina's elected adjutant general, overseeing the shift from a tank-heavy National Guard to one with anti-terrorism specialties that's drawn repeated deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years.
"Modern warfare is nothing like it was 20 to 30 years ago. It's very fast and very mobile," Spears said in a farewell interview looking back on his 16 years in office. "We went out and sought engineering units, military police units, transportation units."
Although the shift led to some criticism, Spears said it helped South Carolina's Army National Guard develop into forces placed in the front lines in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans as it maintained a quick response ability on the home front.
"An M-1 tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle is not much help in a hurricane. Our thinking was it would put us in a much better position to take care of South Carolina," said Spears.
The two-star general officially leaves his post Wednesday as the nation's longest serving adjutant general. South Carolina is the only state with a popularly elected adjutant general. Vermont's legislature votes on its top military officer.