By Alex Junes-Ward
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Colonels Steven B. Vitali and W. Thomas Smith Jr. were honored, May 31, by the senior representative of U.S. ARMY NORTH for the Palmetto State, who recognized and commended both men for their service as members of the S.C. Floodwater Commission’s National Security Task Force (NSTF) and for their previous military service.
Col. Bill Connor – a U.S. Army infantry officer, the emergency preparedness liaison officer (EPLO) for South Carolina, and chairman of the NSTF – presented plaques to Vitali and Smith during ceremonies at the S.C. State House, May 31.
Vitali, who serves as NSTF’s operations officer, is a retired Marine infantry and logistics officer, and a veteran of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, he was assistant chief of staff for the II Marine Expeditionary Force. In Afghanistan, he was senior adviser to the 201st Afghan National Army Corps, commanding officer of the 201st Afghan Regional Corps Advisory Group, and the sole Marine Corps maneuver commander in that country during the period of his deployment. Vitali, who holds a black belt in Karate, is also a member of the South Carolina Black Belt Hall of Fame.
Smith, who serves as NSTF’s executive secretary, is a former U.S. Marine Infantry leader, counterterrorism instructor, and a SWAT team officer in the nuclear industry. As a war correspondent he twice-traveled to Iraq, venturing across much of that country with British contract security forces, U.S. Army cavalry, and a Marine expeditionary unit during the war from Basra to Fallujah to Al Qaim on the Syrian border. He also served as an officer in the S.C. Military Dept. where among his many responsibilities he was founding director of the Counterterrorism Task Force before retiring. Smith is a military technical consultant and a New York Times bestselling editor.
“This recognition, for me, is eclipsed only by the opportunity to serve with these accomplished leaders and others in a cause aimed at saving lives and protecting property in our state, really across the entire southeastern region and beyond,” said Smith.
A portion of each plaque reads, “For exceptional leadership while serving as [respective positions held] of the National Security Task Force.”
The presentation was followed by a working meeting of the NSTF’s executive team as members poured over findings and prepared the task force’s first official report due within a few weeks to the chairman of the S.C. Floodwater Commission and the Governor.
The NSTF is one of ten separate task forces (subcommittees) that form the S.C. Floodwater Commission. The Commission is led by Chairman Tom Mullikin who was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster in Oct. 2018.
U.S. Army North (formerly designated the U.S. Fifth Army) is a U.S. Army component command of the UNITED STATES NORTHERN COMMAND.
– Alex Junes-Ward is a S.C.-based freelance writer and reporter.