CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – It was a reunion of sorts, July 19, when members of the Guam Army National Guard’s Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment met … well, Bravo Company.
There were plenty of hugs, handshakes and laughter when the last of an eight-vehicle convoy parked at Bravo’s motor pool at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, and its personnel dismounted. About 30 from Bravo’s second platoon, based at Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, reunited with their battle brothers and sisters from Bravo’s first platoon, maintenance and operations sections, uniting for Guam’s Liberation Day festivity July 21.
“They haven’t seen each other since we took over command in May,” said Capt. Glen Mesa, Bravo commander. “The unit trained together since last year and they created a lot of bonds. But when we got here, we had to split up the platoons for mission purposes.”
Second platoon is situated at Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand province. Since May, it has been running transportation and security missions – sometimes twice a day – assisting civilian and military people in their associations with Afghan leaders. They operate at a small facility dominated by the British army. The Guam Guardsmen reside in a hot, desolated environment, but have made the best of their endeavors.
[Members of Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, lock arms and shoulders in prayer prior to a July 19 mission at Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza/Released]
“We adapt to what we got,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joe Santiago, platoon sergeant and one of just two Afghanistan veterans of his group. “The main thing is we take our missions seriously. I can say these guys are professional Soldiers. Every mission we go on, they’re always focused.”
Santiago and 1st Lt. Joshua Carson, platoon leader, rotate their soldiers on missions and responsibilities. Every mission starts with a detailed convoy brief, and every convoy brief ends with a prayer and warrior chant.
“We do that to keep up the motivation,” Santiago said. “It also helps to keep them focused on the mission.”
Since May, second platoon has run more than 200 missions and tracked more than a thousand miles with its tactical vehicles, Santiago explained. They escort principals into highly populated areas throughout the southern Afghanistan city.
Lashkar Gah is west of Kandahar in southwest Afghanistan and east of Farah. It is the capital of the Helmand province. The operating base is predominantly British-run, but U.S. forces and Department of Defense contractors are still present.
According to Wikipedia, Lashkar Gah means “army barracks” in Persian language.
Leatherneck and Lashkar Gah are separated by several miles of desert and an isolated road.
The entire company celebrated their island’s 69th year of freedom from Japanese oppression with an early-morning run around Leatherneck and a late-afternoon all-out barbecue. But the day after Liberation Day festivities, second platoon geared up and proceeded back to Lashkar Gah. Close to a dozen tactical vehicles loaded with Guam Guardsmen and civilians trekked back to resume their Operation Enduring Freedom mission.
“I don’t know, maybe next holiday,” Mesa said as to when the soldiers will unite again. “Here or there, the soldiers know we’re one team. We’re in the same fight. We’re here when they really need us, and when we need them, they’ll be right here.”