By Alex Junes-Ward
COLUMBIA, S.C. – U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty – the newly sworn adjutant general of South Carolina – presented the EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE MEDAL to Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin, retired commander of the S.C. State Guard (SCSG) and a former U.S. Army officer, during ceremonies at the Adjutant General’s headquarters building, Mon., Mar. 11.
The award, approved Jan. 28 by the previous adjutant general, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert Livingston, recognized Mullikin’s “extraordinary leadership” to the state of S.C. as an officer serving in the S.C. Military Dept. (SCMD), beginning with his service in the SCMD’s Joint Services Detachment (JSD) and culminating in his command of the SCSG.
“Tom Mullikin is a dynamic, effective, and principled leader; and a man of great character who publicly professes his faith in his service,” said McCarty. “As commander of the SCSG, he had a bold vision for the organization and a tireless work ethic to accomplish it.”
McCarty added, “Due in great part to his efforts, the State Guard was transformed into a professional organization that provided needed capabilities and resources to the State during times of emergencies.”
Last Dec., command of the SCSG passed from Mullikin to Brig. Gen. Leon Lott, former deputy commander SCSG who also serves as sheriff of Richland County, an elected-office Lott has held for 23 years.
Mullikin began his military career as a U.S. Army JAG officer in 1998, serving as both trial counsel attached to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and as a self-defense instructor (Mullikin holds a Black Belt in traditional karate and is a certified Army Master Fitness Instructor). He was later commissioned into the SCMD’s JSD, and it was during this time that he also served in a civilian capacity as Special Assistant to the Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions overseeing the trial of terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists.
A career attorney – founder of the Camden-based Mullikin Law Firm – global expedition leader and a professor at Coastal Carolina University, Mullikin was recently appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to chair the newly established S.C. Floodwater Commission.
A portion of the citation for Mullikin’s Exceptional Service Medal reads: “Major General Livingston tasked Major General Mullikin with transforming the SCSG into a cohesive all-volunteer state defense force capable of supporting the S.C. National Guard and the broader S.C. Military Dept. disaster response missions. He implemented his vision to create the best state guard in the nation by developing the capability to respond to disasters in S.C. with unique assets. These assets included land, water, and equestrian search-and-rescue teams, professionally trained law-enforcement argumentation teams, medical support teams, professional engineering teams, and Judge Advocate General teams.”
The Exceptional Service Medal is the third highest SCMD decoration ranking in precedence below the Palmetto Cross and the Medal of Valor. Mullikin also holds several other federal and state decorations, and he is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor.
– Alex Junes-Ward is a Columbia-based freelance writer and reporter.