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After DUI arrest, a top SC National Guard official was removed from leadership role

Then-U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery, South Carolina National Guard state command sergeant major, shares a message to the Soldiers and Airmen on June 3, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard video by Spc. David Erskine and Sgt. Chelsea Baker, South Carolina National Guard)
September 30, 2020

One of the top officials in the South Carolina National Guard was demoted following a recent DUI arrest.

A Guard spokeswoman said Russ Vickery was removed from his position as command sergeant major after he was found passed out behind the wheel of a running vehicle on Sept. 4.

Vickery now holds the rank of sergeant major, spokeswoman Capt. Jessica Donnelly told The State Wednesday.

“The South Carolina National Guard is held to standards and regulations when it comes to the conduct of our personnel, and for this reason, the state command sergeant major was removed from his position,” Donnelly said.

The National Guard will not release any additional personnel actions taken against Vickery to protect his privacy, according to Donnelly.

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Information about whether Vickery has been disciplined in the past by the military was not available. He is a 37-year veteran of the National Guard.

On an interim basis, Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Thomas of the South Carolina Air National Guard was selected on Sept. 18 to serve as the state senior enlisted advisor for the South Carolina National Guard, according to Donnelly. Thomas will serve in that leadership role until a board selects a permanent replacement, Donnelly said.

As the 12th state command sergeant major of the Army and Air National Guard for South Carolina, Vickery was one of the state Guard’s top enlisted members.

He was found unconscious in his car near a dumpster in his apartment complex on Knox Abbott Drive, according to the Cayce Department of Public Safety. The Advenir at One Eleven apartments in West Columbia are a block from the Blossom Street bridge and the Congaree River.

The car was in drive, but Vickery had passed out behind the wheel with his foot on the brake so the car wasn’t moving, according to an incident report.

Vickery, who failed a sobriety test and then registered .09% on a breathalyzer test, told police he was taking the trash from his apartment to the dumpster, according to the incident report. South Carolina law prohibits driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.

Vickery confessed to the officer he had a “few” whiskey drinks earlier in the night, and he also had recently taken a prescription medication for high-blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, in addition to hydrocodone following a recent surgery, and a sleep aid, according to the report.

He was taken to the Lexington County Detention Center, where he has since been released.

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© 2020 The State