Amid pandemic, Guam Guard maintains routine operations

BARRIGADA, Guam (June 1, 2020) – Guam National Guard Soldiers stand at attention State Command during a GUNG command leadership visit at the GUNG Barrigada Readiness Center June 1. Leadership met with Soldiers and Airmen preparing to deploy in support of Operation Guardian Support. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by JoAnna Delfin)

When the Guam National Guard is called to duty, the island’s Soldiers and Airmen answer that call, whenever or wherever. As they carry out their mission, it does not mean that daily operations of the entire organization cease. Sustaining the force is and remains the Guard’s priority.

More than 200 Guard members are activated in support of the government of Guam’s COVID-19 response. At the same time, other Guam Guard members and civilian employees work to ensure the continuity of the organization’s routine operations.

“The Guam National Guard is ready to provide trained forces for our federal, state and community objectives,” said Maj. Gen. (GU) Esther Aguigui, GUNG adjutant general. “We have many ongoing missions and we remain postured to ensure all our goals and objectives are met to keep our force strong and capable.”

Though the GUNG’s response to the pandemic is currently a large part of operations, the Guard still maintains several tasks of its 11 units and 15 subunits.

The units include the 105th Troop Command; 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment; Guam Army National Guard Medical Det.; Recruiting and Retention Battalion; 203rd Retention Training Institute Guam; 94th Civil Support Team; GUARNG Element; 254th Air Base Group; 254th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE); 254th Security Forces Squadron; and the 254th Force Support Squadron.

“Each unit has a rotation cycle, and right now many of them are in their training phase so they’re making sure they’re prepared for any mission,” said GUNG Operations Director Lt. Col. Charles Douglas. “We may have a typhoon tomorrow and we may have to support COVID-19 and typhoon response or a unit could be called upon for a federal mission. It’s very relevant that we maintain our readiness. We can’t drop everything else to support one mission; we have to be able to support all.”

Recently, more than 40 service members were deployed to the continental U.S. for Operation Guardian Support, which is a larger National Guard mission in support of the Department of Homeland Security. The mission is to enhance the U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the Southwest border.

The GUNG also continues its security mission at the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery at Andersen Air Force Base. Aside from these assignments, the Guard continues to recruit, train and send future Soldiers and Airmen to basic training; carry out monthly drills and annual training activities; and preparations for future exercises, all while making necessary adjustments due to the pandemic.

Officer candidates from the Guam National Guard, and ROTC Cadets from the University of Guam, train together in Barrigada on June 17. The joint exercises mark the first coordinated training effort between the two commissioning sources in over 10 years.

“The expectation is that missions don’t stop, so realistically although the pandemic response is a large mission, our daily ops need to continue,” said Douglas. “We want to also continue to minimize the transmission of the virus so we do everything we possibly can to make sure we’re not part of the problem but we remain part of the solution.”

Regardless of the capacity in which the GUNG operates, Guam guard members are proud to serve at home or abroad to protect the freedom of their fellow Guamanians and Americans.

“The Guam Guard is here for the community, for the government and our federal missions,” Douglas said. “For us, it’s a good feeling that we’re able to serve our community and show our support during these hard times. We know that everyone is going through tough times and we just want to let them know we’re here to support.”

YONA, Guam (June 18, 2020) – Staff Sgt. Jude Santos, 254th RED HORSE Squadron, Guam Air National Guard, clears debris during demolition at the Yona Fire Station June 18. The Guam National Guard, in support of the government of Guam, is preparing the facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by JoAnna Delfin)