CAMP SHELBY, Miss. [DIVDS] – A key step for Guam in its historic Afghanistan mission started and ended here as the last group of Guam Army National Guardsmen departed May 5 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Nearly a dozen Guam Guardsmen completed administrative necessities recently and will now link up with more than 600 who called Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center a temporary home in March and April. The bulk of Guam’s 1-294th Infantry Regiment completed CHJFTC’s mobilization training and are already in Afghanistan.
“It’s time to go, time to reunite with our Guam brothers,” said Sgt. Cliff Taijeron, a Bravo Company, 1-294th squad leader. “Time to head out and perform our mission.”
Taijeron and the Guam Soldiers were housed at Camp Shelby’s Warrior (Replacement) Platoon, completing extra mobilization duties while awaiting their final “boots off ground” order. They finally departed in the early morning hours.
“It’s been an honor for us to have them here,” said Staff Sgt. James A. Smith, a Warrior Platoon participant who’s en route to Afghanistan with the 278th Military Police Company. “They were not only great cooks, they were great friends. We hope to see them again in country.”
Guam, a Pacific Island nation, owns one of the smallest of the 52 National Guards. But it’s sending more than 600 “Chamorro Warriors” — or nearly half of its total strength — to Afghanistan, marking the largest mobilization in the island’s history.
Guam has sent forces to support OEF and Operation Iraqi Freedom previously, but never of this magnitude.
“This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of our deploying Soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, 1-294th commander, addressing his troops during February’s Sendoff Ceremony on Guam. “This battalion and the entire Guam Army National Guard has transformed into a fighting force of well trained men and women, a professional force that … all branches of service know and respect.”
About a dozen Guam Guardsmen will remain at Camp Shelby as support crew. Individually, they’ll be sent to Afghanistan as needed replacements.