IN AFGHANISTAN: Guam Father-Son Team Share Mission, Share Life, at Camp Eggers

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CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan — Sometimes their conversations are so simple, it’s as though they hardly know each other even though they’ve been inseparable for 28 years.

“Good morning Sergeant,” Spc. Randall A.P. Lizama, a team leader for Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, would say to his father in passing.

“Good morning Specialist Lizama,” replies Sgt. 1st Class Anthony “Ton” Lizama, platoon sergeant for Charlie Company, Task Force Guam. “Have a good day, Soldier.”

And with one brief exchange father and son go their separate ways to complete their respective missions.

Underlying this brief interaction is the family first values of the Lizama household in Asan, Guam. There, Randall grew up with two sisters and parents who lived the family first motto. That still holds true in Afghanistan, where the two Lizamas are serving the same tour, in the same compound, but under different commands.

“That’s dad. He’s family. Family will always come first,” said Randall, 28. “Out here, it just depends on the situation. If there’s downtime and people are hanging out, I’ll look at him as my father. I’ll talk to him as my father. But when he’s busy as a (personal security detail), he has a lot of work to do. I’ll address him as a senior (noncommissioned officer).”

“He’s my son and I love my son,” the elder Lizama replied. “But he has a mission to do and I have a mission to do, as well. I’m proud of him and I respect him. But I don’t get in his way. If he messes up, it’s on him.”

One of their unit commanders, Major Rick Flores of Charlie Company, noticed how the two have both consistently maintained their professional demeanor.

“They’re pretty good about separating their family life from their military careers,” said Flores. “They’re maintaining their military bearing. For the most part, it’s sergeant first class and specialist.”

Camp Eggers is a small post in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital city. Although small, it is one of the busiest bases. The busy, daily duties here divide the Lizamas. They are assigned to different units, so their sleeping quarters are separated. They even eat meals at different times. Despite their different schedules, they find opportunities to relate as father and son. Randall treated dad to his 53rd birthday last month and although Randall missed mom and dad’s 28th anniversary Aug. 3, Ton Lizama understood.

“It’s okay as long as I know he’s staying focused on his mission,” he said.

The Lizamas are one of approximately 30 Guam family pairs, such as a brother-brother or father-son, deployed to Afghanistan in Task Force Guam’s nearly 600 troops. This historic deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom is the largest group of reserve component troops sent from the Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory.

Ton and his wife Bernie (Pereda) have been married 28 years. She’s Charlie Company’s Family Readiness Group chairperson. It took both parents a while to adjust to Randall’s decision to join the military, and even more so after realizing he was heading to Afghanistan with dad.

“He’s now pursuing his own dreams. I can’t stop that,” Ton Lizama explained. “As parents, you want what’s best for your children. We wanted what’s best for him. But this is something he wanted to do on his own.”

“Dad pretty much wanted me to join the Air Force. He said I was too smart for the Army,” replied Randall. “But I wanted to be in the infantry.”

Randall enlisted into the Guam Army National Guard in 2009.

Both Soldiers advise each other about remaining vigilant while on missions. Ton Lizama would sometimes travel with his Soldiers when they escort U.S. and foreign general officers. Leaving the camp is a regular duty for Randall, who also serves as a gunner, truck commander and Echo Company’s communications specialist.

“Dad knows this: Out here, we’re Soldiers,” Randall said. “And I know mom. She’s been through missions for as long as dad has. She knows how things roll. She knows the hazards that come with deployments,” said the younger Lizama.

“The bottom line, I love my son,” Ton Lizama replied. “I worry about him when he’s out and about because he’s my only son. When I see him, it makes things easier. It’s a relief to see he’s okay. But when he’s (in the camp) my mind goes to my mission. There are (30-plus) Soldiers I have to take care of. To track all that they do and to concentrate on my work, I don’t leave the office until the last guy comes in from mission.”

After a moment of reflection Ton Lizama adds, “Wait … thirty plus one Soldiers.”