Whether it’s working with soldiers from the U.S. Army Training Center from Fort Jackson, airmen from Shaw Air Force base, or members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), South Carolina Athletics enjoys a strong commitment with the U.S. military. As part of that relationship, the Athletics Department is involved in presenting the Rex Enright Award at the Annual ROTC Awards Ceremony, which was held earlier this month.
“I have my hands in a lot of military groups and initiatives that are tied to the University, so I was asked to present this award on behalf of the Athletics Department,” said Jared Evans, Legal Liaison for South Carolina Athletics and a retired U.S. Marine sergeant.
The Rex Enright Award is named in honor of the former South Carolina head football coach and athletics director who left the University in the middle of his tenure to serve in the United States Navy during World War II, and then returned three years later. The Rex Enright Award is given to the most outstanding athletes in each ROTC unit. Army cadet Jackson C. Myers, Air Force cadet Chance A. Harper, and Midshipman Brennan L. Gedney were honored with the award earlier this month.
Evans is the president of the Veterans Alumni Council, an affinity group created last summer within My Carolina Alumni Association, and he is also the University advisor for the student-veterans association on campus.
“As a veteran, it means a lot to me that our department is so involved with the military,” Evans said. “The military community is so strong in this state. Being able to connect the passion of Gamecock alumni and fans with the passion of the veteran and military community is what really gets me excited.”
ROTC students have also been involved with Gamecock Athletics for several years as Army cadets regularly hand out all of the rally towels to fans entering Williams-Brice Stadium on game days.
“It’s going strong, and it’s a huge help for us,” said Josh Waters, assistant athletics director for marketing. “We also recently completed our fifth year at men’s basketball where ROTC swears in their troops at a game. It’s kind of like their senior night. It’s been a great partnership. Some of our coaches go over to speak with them, and ROTC members still present the colors at football games, as well as some other sports.
“Those young men and women in ROTC are going on to serve our country, so we want to show them ‘the love’ early and let them know that South Carolina is always going to be here to support them.”
We like to entertain the troops and their families. We like to take care of their families when their loved ones are deployed.Josh Waters, Assistant A.D./Marketing
The relationship isn’t limited to current students in ROTC. South Carolina Athletics regularly provides tickets to Gamecock events to service men and women throughout the year, and also honors all branches with the annual military salute at halftime of one of the football games.
“We have a great relationship with the military in general, especially at Fort Jackson,” Waters said. “We like to entertain the troops and their families. We like to take care of their families when their loved ones are deployed. Their schedules don’t give them a lot of time together, so we like to give them a chance to come together at a Gamecock game.”
The service members reciprocate by providing valuable services and lessons for the Gamecocks.
“We’ve had drill sergeants come out and watch practices and training,” Waters said “They speak with the coaches a lot because drill sergeants are often training 18 year olds, and that’s what our coaches are doing, too. It’s just a great relationship all around.”