We wanted to expand on an item in the December 6 Post and Courier about the law that Governor Henry McMaster signed in relation to military spouses, which will have a significant effect on our military communities in South Carolina.
The Professional and Occupational Licensing Law for Armed Service Members and Spouses has a far-reaching impact, far beyond the help it provides to our state during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing newly relocated nurses to start practicing quickly.
The act was a priority for the armed forces. About 20% of military spouses in professions that require licensing and certifications said they wait up to 10 months to receive credentials after the move, according to a 2019 Department of Defense survey of active spouses.
Since most assignments average 24 months, a 10-month wait means that most spouses are barely able to obtain a license in one state before starting to pack for the next location. It is a significant impediment to detention in the Armed Forces and that is why our new law has been a top priority for the Department of Defense leadership for several years.
Passing legislation in South Carolina easing licensing and reciprocity requirements is a major victory for our state. Last year, the United States Air Force adopted two new quality of life criteria that it will use to make basic decisions: Spouse licensing is one of them. Since South Carolina had just passed this law, our state received high marks in the first index distributed by the Air Force.
The other criterion is education and local schools. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a good rating here. That is why we will continue to work with our state and local education officials on ways to improve the performance of schools in our military communities that serve our bases.
We were lucky enough to host the new Air Mobility Commander, four-star general Jacki Van Ovost, in Charleston, just before Thanksgiving, and she reiterated that education must be a priority for our community if we are to maintain and expand our military missions.
South Carolina’s military facilities mean big business for our state. Joint Base Charleston is a $ 11 billion engine in our three-county region alone. But our army is more than just an economic impact. The men and women who serve and their families are an integral part of the structure of our communities. There are no “us and them” here; it’s all “just us”. With more than 20,000 military personnel in our region, you are likely to have a neighbor, a co-worker, or a friend associated with the Charleston Joint Base.
South Carolina has a long history of being a pro-military state. The Professional and Occupational Licensing Law for Members of the Armed Forces and Spouses was a great victory for our state: our legislators and governor need to be applauded for their actions.
We still have work to do to deal with our schools, and the next hurdle will require more than passing a single piece of legislation. It will take a concerted effort by all of us to ensure that all schools in our communities meet the needs of our children.
Cheryl Clark, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in North Charleston, and Dave Echols, president of the Charleston RiverDogs, are part of the Civic Leaders Program at Air Mobility Command Headquarters. Mary Graham, owner of Mary Graham Consulting in Mount Pleasant, serves as part of the Air and Space Forces Civic Leader Program.