South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster presents decoration
By Alex Junes-Ward
Dr. Tom Mullikin, a former U.S. Army officer and retired commander of the S.C. State Guard, was presented the Order of Saint Maurice (OSM) during ceremonies at the Governor’s office, S.C. State House, Thursday, Sept. 1.
A National Infantry award, the OSM recognizes recipients who have either served in the
infantry with great distinction (primarily Army infantry officers and a few Marine infantry officers and leaders) or non-infantry recipients who “have demonstrated a significant and outstanding contribution in support of the Infantry,” according to the National Infantry Association.
Mullikin’s award, approved and signed by the chairman of the National Infantry Association and the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry, was presented by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and Col. (Ret.) Steve Vitali, U.S. Marine Corps [Pictured].
The OSM is awarded at one of five levels: Primicerius, Centurion, Legionnaire, Peregrinus (for distinguished foreign military personnel), and Civis (for distinguished non-infantry recipients).
Mullikin received the award at the Civis level.
“This is a huge personal honor,” said Mullkin, a former U.S. Army JAG officer who personally trained Army infantry soldiers while serving as an Army master fitness trainer and an Army self-defense (combatives instructor) during the eight years he served in the Army Reserve, 1998-2006. “The Army and the specific infantry branch has always been near-and-dear to me, as it was to my father who served in an ad hoc special operations unit in World War II.”
Named VETERAN OF THE WEEK by the S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this year, Mullikin’s service in the Army Reserve began his otherwise unique military career which included service in the S.C. Military Department’s Joint Service Detachment (JSD) and the S.C. State Guard (SCSG).
In JSD, Mullikin served as both JAG officer and Counterterrorism Task Force officer; later Counterterrorism Advisory Team officer.
In the SCSG, he initially served as deputy commander and chief of staff, and in 2014, he became commander (commanding general) before retiring as major general in 2018.
While serving in the S.C. Military Department (SCMD), Mullikin also served in a civilian capacity as special assistant to the Chief Prosecutor, Military Commissions, U.S. Department of Defense. The Military Commissions was responsible for prosecuting the 9/11 terrorists.
“Throughout his multi-faceted career, Mullikin has been a tireless supporter of the U.S. Armed Forces, primarily Infantry and special operations forces,” said Col. (Ret.) W. Thomas Smith Jr., SCMD and a former U.S. Marine Infantry leader. “When I speak of tireless support, I’m talking about his time – years literally – given to others, energy expended, and the very generous tangible resources he has poured into military and veterans organizations.”
Smith nominated Mullikin for the award in May. The award was approved the following month by a board – primarily senior retired Army infantry officers of the NIA – convening at the National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning, Georgia.
Paralleling Mullikin’s military service, he is an environmental attorney, a university professor, and a world-renowned explorer having hiked and climbed mountain ranges stretching across every continent on earth, achieving four (so far) of the world’s seven great summits, SCUBA diving in all of the world’s oceans, and having earned parachutist wings from numerous foreign military forces. His expeditions are often arduous and conducted in austere, remote regions of the world where he is exploring for understanding and education, the world’s changing climate and issues of sustainability.
Mullikin has led many of his expeditions at the head of retired and former Army infantry and special forces soldiers. His recent leadership within the FORCE BLUE team – which includes former Navy SEALs and Recon Marines diving off the U.S. coastline repairing natural reef systems and installing artificial smart reef systems in order to track weather systems and sea-level rise – is an extension of his expeditionary work.
Among his numerous responsibilities, Mullikin serves as chairman of the gubernatorially
established S.C. Floodwater Commission.
Created in 1996, the Order of St. Maurice is named for Saint Maurice, the legendary commander of the Theban Legion of the Roman Army in the 3 rd century A.D. Maurice and his men, Christians all, were initially decimated (every tenth soldier executed) and ultimately martyred to a man for refusing to worship Rome’s pagan deities.
The decoration itself is based on the pattern of the cavalry and armor's Order of Saint
George medal and the artillery’s Order of Saint Barbara medal.
In addition to the governor and his staff, and Colonels Vitali and Smith, those attending the OSM presentation included Mullikin’s son, Thomas Mullikin Jr.; members of the S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame (Mullikin is a 2019 inductee); Dr. David Cárdenas, dean of USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management; Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, director of the S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Sen. Thomas Alexander, president of the S.C. Senate.