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Deputies, other LEOs train for active-shooter response in South Carolina

[originally published at OpsLens, July 17, 2018.]

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A report of “active shooter” at a local elementary school kicked-off a major active-shooter response exercise for the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD), earlier today, with scores of RCSD deputies and other officers converging on Jackson Creek Elementary School in northeast Columbia, S.C.

Aware that there would be an exercise, but unaware of time or place, RCSD patrol deputies received the alert at 1:00 p.m. as did units from the Columbia Fire Dept., which were dispatched to help cordon-off a perimeter of at least two miles around the school. Within less than three-to-five minutes, deputies were swarming the school as roadblocks and an incident command center were simultaneously set.

“This is not the first training we’ve conducted for this particular scenario at different locations throughout the county and elsewhere,” says Capt. Maria Yturria, director of RCSD’s Office of Public Information. “But this is easily one of the broadest multi-agency exercises for active shooter response we’ve yet to run.”

Special Response Team operators (approximately 20 tactical officers including explosive ordnance “bomb” disposal experts) and emergency medical technicians also deployed quickly to the scene, as did RCSD’s Crisis Management Team (including hostage negotiators) while first one, then a second, drone from RCSD’s aviation unit hummed overhead.

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Global Eco Adventures graduates three new “Ninja Divers” in Nassau

South Carolinians dive with sharks during advanced SCUBA training in the Bahamas

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Global expedition leader Tom Mullikin of Camden, South Carolina-based Global Eco Adventures (GEA) trained and graduated three new specialist SCUBA divers through GEA’s unique “Ninja Diver Shark Awareness” program off Nassau, earlier this month.

The program – designed to educate SCUBA divers and other marine-exploration enthusiasts about sharks, the nature of sharks, shark habitats, and the diversity and numbers of shark populations worldwide – incorporates intermediate and advanced SCUBA diving and shark diving skills with martial-arts breathing techniques (which is why the title, “ninja diver”) to better enable divers operating in potentially dangerous waters.

“It’s a unique combination which has proven to be extremely effective,” says Mullikin; GEA’s founding president, the ninja-diver course developer and the dive instructor conducting the training in the Bahamas, July 6-9, 2018. “This 15-hour course and subsequent certification involves extensive training in martial arts breathing exercises – also taught at the Mullikin Martial Arts Studio in Camden – which allows students to better control their breathing while operating for an extended period of time in open water, underwater.”

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Ryan Rawl Memorial Event kicks-off Independence Day in S.C.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) Deputy and S.C. Army National Guard (SCARNG) officer Ryan Rawl will “never be forgotten,” says Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. It’s a pledge that has been realized publicly every year since Ryan’s death in Afghanistan in 2012 through the RYAN RAWL MEMORIAL EVENT, this year a station-to-station running-and-exercise event based on the Crossfit model and various military-law-enforcement physical fitness regimens.

As in previous years, the 2018 Ryan Rawl Memorial Event was held on the S.C. State House grounds, in Columbia, July 4. The 8:00 a.m. (Eastern) event, today, was hosted and facilitated by RCSD with many RCSD deputies, law enforcement officers and first responders from other area-agencies, Columbia business leaders, and fitness enthusiasts participating.

“It’s a great kickoff to all Independence Day celebrations in the Midlands,” said Sheriff Lott, adding, “Ryan will never be forgotten; not as long as I’m sheriff.”

A former Lexington High School football player and wrestler who later graduated from The Citadel, Rawl began serving RCSD in 2005. In 2006, he also received his U.S. Army commission in the SCARNG.

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S.C. Free Clinic Association recognized by U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The South Carolina Free Clinic Association (SCFCA) and the association’s member clinics were recognized by U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thurs., June 7, 2018: The five-minute recognition airing live on C-SPAN.

[Please see]

“The South Carolina Free Clinic Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that provides training, research, resource development and advocacy to member free clinics,” said Congressman Norman, who represents S.C. from the Palmetto State’s 5th Congressional District. “The South Carolina Free Clinic Association represents and supports our state’s network of 40 free clinics in 25 counties across S.C. The member free clinics provide comprehensive care to economically disadvantaged individuals all across our great state including those individuals who are both uninsured and the underinsured.”

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S.C. Sheriff receives U.S. Army recognition

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff Leon Lott was one of four honorees inducted into the Fort Jackson Hall of Fame during ceremonies and a luncheon hosted by Maj. Gen. John P. Johnson, commanding general of Fort Jackson, S.C., Fri., June 1.

The induction honor recognizes “those who have meant so much to the overall mission of Fort Jackson,” said Gen. Johnson prior to the presentation of medals. “Their gift to the Midlands community, to Fort Jackson, and for our Army team. They’ve enriched our Army team. They’ve dulled the edges of some of the sacrifice that is involved.”

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South Carolina Sheriff featured in new CRTV talk show venture

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff Leon Lott [pictured here] was the featured guest of EXPERIENCE MATTERS, a new CRTV television program hosted by Drew Berquist of the OpsLens Media Group, this week. In a pre-recorded interview segment, Thurs., May 31, Lott discussed the recent spate of school shootings, school safety and the criticality of an effective school resource officer program, and why the idea of arming teachers is “not the right approach.”

Lott will provide expert commentary for EXPERIENCE MATTERS, every other week (dates to be determined), as will other senior officers commanding various elements within the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. going forward.

A new television venture of the OpsLens Media Group where Lott has been published and Berquist serves as editor-in-chief, EXPERIENCE MATTERS will air weeknights at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on subscriber-based CRTV Television.

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S.C. WILDLIFE magazine crew films world diving expert for ongoing series

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

CAMDEN, S.C. – Global expedition leader Tom Mullikin and son, Thomas, Jr., a master naturalist, were filmed demonstrating SCUBA-gear functionality as they discussed their climbing and diving adventures as part of an ongoing magazine and film series produced by South Carolina Wildlife magazine, earlier this week. The video interview was conducted by Danielle Kent, a videographer with the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources (SCDNR); and Cindy Thompson, managing editor of S.C. Wildlife, at the Mullikin home in Camden.

Mullikin is the subject and principal writer for an ongoing series in S.C. Wildlife, which highlights his and his son’s journeys around the world – and across South Carolina (which he argues “is one of the most beautiful, and environmentally and archeologically rich places on Earth.”) – as well as his continued quest to become the first human to have SCUBA-dived in all five oceans and climbed the world’s seven great summits.

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Great work is always measurable

Global expedition leader receives three lofty honors in less-than-four weeks

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Great men are often recognized by single great achievements. Truly great men are recognized – and measured – by regular accomplishments achieved in relatively short spans of time; with those spans being linked to a longer chain of the same, year-after-year.

Take, for example, my longtime friend Tom Mullikin. He is always doing something, going somewhere, leading a team, climbing a mountain, diving with sharks, or finding a solution in a world of problems. And a measure (though not all) of what he does has been recognized in his latest three acknowledgments of measurably good work.

Last month, Mullikin – an attorney, professor, and global expedition leader (a “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC expert,” by the way) – traveled to New York for a three-day conference where he was welcomed into the company of the famed EXPLORERS CLUB as a Fellow. The Explorers Club is an elite organization of, yes, accomplished explorers, some of whom have been the first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the Mariana Trench (the deepest point in the ocean), and first to the surface of the moon.

Then earlier this week, Mullikin was named a Fellow in the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. Since its founding in 1830 as the Geographical Society of London, the Royal Geographical Society has included the likes Ernest Shackleton and Charles Darwin among its number. Continue reading “Great work is always measurable”

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Mullikin honored by USC during gameday halftime ceremonies

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin, commander of the S.C. State Guard (SCSG) and a former U.S. Army officer, was honored for his service to the state and nation during halftime ceremonies at the South Carolina vs. Wofford football game, Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, Saturday, November 18.

A Camden-based attorney, university professor and internationally-recognized global expedition leader, Mullikin [pictured center and to the right of USC athletic director Ray Tanner] has served as commander (commanding general) of the SCSG since 2014.

Mullikin was joined by two other military veterans who were also recognized: Mr.  Frank Singleton, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, and Sgt. Ramon Guitard, a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War. The three were honored as part of the University of South Carolina’s “Military Appreciation Day.” The previous Saturday, November 11, was Veterans Day. And November is Veterans Month.

“I am humbled and tremendously honored to receive this recognition by my alma mater,” said Mullikin. “But perhaps more-so because this great university is always recognizing and striving to find new ways to reach out to and serve this state’s sizeable veterans’ community. And our veterans – active, Reserve, Guard, retired and former – are so important to this state.”

A graduate of both USC (undergraduate) and the USC School of Law, Mullikin is today a research professor in environmental policy at Coastal Carolina University. He began his military career as a U.S. Army Reserve JAG lawyer and was attached as an international legal officer to a Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) within the U.S. Special Operations Command. Following his Army service, Mullikin served as special assistant to the Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who previously said, “Because of his extraordinary work, I can confidently affirm that Mullikin’s efforts are a meaningful contribution to the whole of our national security efforts.”

Mullikin is a noted world adventurer, having climbed four of the world’s seven great summits and having logged multiple dives in five oceans (now nearing a record for the combination of both climbs and dives). He is also an author and an award-winning film producer.

Founded in 1801, USC is a nationally ranked public university and the flagship university for the Palmetto State.

For more information about USC, please visit

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16 years ago: ‘the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon’