They emerge from the six-foot-high sword grass one by one, carrying carbine paintball guns and wearing vastly different uniforms. Command Sgt. Maj. Celso Leonen, commandant of the Guam National Guard’s 203rd Regional Training Institute, must suppress his urge to make uniformity corrections — for now.
This is a joint exercise between the Guam National Guard’s Officer Candidate School and the University of Guam’s Reserve Officer Training Corps programs. As distinct commissioning sources, the two programs traditionally have separate curriculum and training events (and uniforms).
Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the normal training events in the mainland U.S. have been postponed for both OCS and ROTC.
“This doesn’t mean we just walk away from our obligations,” said Leonen. “The training doesn’t just stop. These are our future leaders, and we owe it to them to give them the best training possible.”
Under the leadership of Lt. Col. Jumar Castro, 203rd RTI commander, Leonen and the RTI staff worked with the UOG ROTC program to combine resources and offer realistic and valuable training. The weeklong training, which took place in the stifling heat of Guam’s tropical savanna, included tactical movements, communications and reports, conducting ambushes, reacting to contact, calling for artillery fire, calling for medical evacuation, and more.
In the culminating training event, the trainees called for a live GUNG MEDEVAC, and were treated to a cool ride in a GUNG UH-72 Lakota helicopter.
Officer Candidate Steven Cruz, acting squad leader for the trainees, offered his thoughts on the combined training. “We come out to the field, and we get missions done as a team. We have OCS here with our ROTC brothers and sisters, and we’re in this fight together. We train to fight, we train to win, and we cannot lose.”