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South Carolina governor to begin Reserve training

By AARON SHEININ | KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS Published: March 22, 2003

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford trades in the opulence of the mansion for the austerity of the barracks Saturday as he leaves for two weeks of Air Force Reserve training in Alabama.

Starting at 5:45 a.m. EST Sunday, Sanford will be the property of the U.S. Air Force, a first lieutenant completing his Reserve Commissioned Officer Training, not the leader of 4 million people.

And that's how Sanford wants it. He wants to fit in and plans to be "as low-key and quiet about my other role and responsibilities and just be part of the group."

While Sanford will leave most of the trappings of the Governor's Mansion and the State House behind, he'll have at least one familiar face: Carl Alston, one of Sanford's personal bodyguards.

Alston, an agent with the State Law Enforcement Division, is also an Air Force reservist and arranged to serve his annual two-week stint at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama while Sanford is there.

Alston will not be following Sanford around, but will serve as the governor's conduit back to Columbia. If people need to reach the governor, they'll first call Alston, who would then find the governor.

In addition, Sanford said, he'll have nightly conference calls with his chief of staff, Fred Carter, to discuss the day's business in South Carolina.

Sanford's ability to deal with issues of state will be limited.

After Sunday, Sanford's day will begin at 5:25 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. each day.

Nearly every moment between, from dawn to dusk, is prescribed. Sanford credits Carter, himself a Marine reservist, with handling the logistics for the two to communicate when necessary.

And, Sanford said, he's used to operating on little rest if necessary.

"What it means is I'll continue to burn a little more midnight oil," Sanford said. "It's more of the same."

Sanford and Carter both point out that previous governors have gone on extended trade trips overseas and been away from Columbia for weeks at a time. And if the unthinkable happens, Sanford said, he'll do what he has to do to be here.

"If al-Qaida blew up the Wando Terminal (of the Port of Charleston) and consequently half of Mount Pleasant, I'd be back here in an hour-and-a-half," Sanford said.

"The question is not in case of an emergency. The question is the day-to-day operations and trying to advance our legislative agenda."

The team is in place to do that, Sanford said. With Carter at the top, Sanford said he'll rely on legislative director Chip Campsen and his team, and communications director Chris Drummond and his staff.

He'll also count on his closest adviser, first lady Jenny Sanford. She will handle some of the ceremonial duties of the office while he's away, Sanford said. That means making a few public appearances and speeches to groups that were already on the governor's schedule and could not be canceled.

Sanford also will carry a sheaf of executive orders with him. If he needs to declare a state of emergency for whatever reason — terrorism or natural disaster — he'll have an order to sign.

The 42-year-old governor also will be leaving behind four sons, ages 4 to 10. They are used to daddy leaving, Sanford said — during six years in Congress, Sanford got on a plane most Mondays to return to Washington. He was gone for days during last year's gubernatorial campaign.

"There is no separation anxiety for the kids," Sanford said.

His wife agreed.

"Two weeks is going to be easy" compared with time apart while her husband was in Washington, Jenny Sanford said. Every night he's away from home, Sanford calls before the children's bedtime. "I expect he will do the same" for the next two weeks, she said Friday.

"We are going to miss him," she said. But "he's not going to Iraq or Kuwait."

Not yet, anyway. Sanford is a member of the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, based at Charleston Air Force Base. Forty-five of the unit's 132 members have been deployed.

Sanford is a health services administrator who helps set up C-17 transport planes to ferry wounded. Whether he gets called up is largely a question of what happens in the war with Iraq, Sanford said.

"It's all predicated on what happens when military forces reach Baghdad," Sanford said. The fewer the casualties suffered by the United States and its allies, the less likely he is to have to leave.

If he is called up, however, he said he'll go, and he'll turn over the power of his office to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

But not now — a point he has tried to help his children understand.

"We've certainly made it very clear, `Daddy ain't going over there,'" Sanford said. "`He's just going down the road a little bit.'"


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