CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan – Redeploy, reconsolidate and reintegrate.
Nearly 600 Guam Army National Guardsmen currently serve Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and their time to redeploy home approaches fast. This led to the Sept. 28-30 command summit brief, where nearly two dozen Task Force Guam leaders discussed reconsolidating the unit once it gets home as well as reintegrating soldiers with their families and civilian life, bringing the scattered 600 back into one unified battalion.
“There are a lot of Rs,” said Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, Task Force Guam commander, who utilized “resetting,” “re-engaging soldiers” and “REFRAD” (Released From Active Duty) during the conference’s duration. “What we do here will get us home safer and quicker. There are a lot of issues we need to tackle. We need to talk to each other, come up with solutions to figure out what’s best for our battalion.”
First Lt. Brett Storie, communications officer for the Guam Army National Guard’s Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, controls briefing slides as leaders discuss the battalion’s future during the Sept. 28 command summit brief at Camp Spann, Balkh province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza/Released)
Company commanders and support staff gathered to give their voice on what lies ahead for Guam’s seven companies currently in six International Security Assistance Force regions. The event follows the senior enlisted leaders conference two weeks ago, where seasoned noncommissioned officers met and devised recommendations for the battalion’s future.
“The first 90 days and the last 90 are the most dangerous in any deployment,” Tougher added. “That’s why we need to be here, that’s why we need this discussion. We’re planning our way home. Everyone needs to come up with ideas to reintegrate our soldiers when we get home.”
The battalion’s immediate future – completion of its OEF mission – remains the key topic of any discussion, Tougher exclaimed.
Redeploying is still an important issue especially since Task Force Guam’s replacements – Task Force Fury from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division – are counting down the days to their arrival.
Task Force Guam is within its 90-day time frame remaining in Afghanistan.
“Anytime the command can come together is a good thing,” said 1st Lt. Peter Guerrero, commander, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard and host of the command summit brief. “It brings our leaders together where we can share our thoughts and methods. This is where we can rebuild our companies, then put it all together and rebuild our battalion.”
The battalion will lose at least two companies when OEF is done. The battalion will restructure its organization and equipment listing, moving soldiers to original units and placing others elsewhere. This takes time considering the battalion is still operating in a war zone.
“This is a professional organization. Soldiers will go where the job takes them,” Tougher added.
With more than 500 soldiers deployed forward, Tougher and his leaders will reunite them soon with the 200-plus still in the rear. The battalion commander challenged his officers to have 100 percent physically fit soldiers in their respective unit. The goal is to have everyone unflagged (without restriction) upon return, Tougher said.
The leaders settled July as annual training time frame. It ties in with Guam’s 70th annual Liberation Day Parade, the island’s largest festivity. July was projected because of other events, such as Yellow Ribbon programs, and the expected time frame returning soldiers will be off leave.
“When it comes time for planning [for redeployment and future missions on Guam] it’s never too early to start. That’s why we do this now,” Guerrero explained. “Setting and establishing the way to redeploy is very important. It’s very important for us to plan our yearly training calendar now so we can allocate resources and do all the administrative and medical requirements. This helps us get ready for annual training and the year coming up.”
Like the senior enlisted leaders conference, personnel issues were thoroughly discussed. Soldier movement is a concern, but so is getting them into advance schools, training classes and mandatory sessions. There will likely be a lot of position-switching, said Capt. Darrell Fejarang, personnel officer, and they’ll be for the betterment of the battalion as a whole. The battalion will closely re-look at soldiers who are also assigned to warrior transition units, Fejarang added.
“We cannot accommodate every individual soldier’s request. Everyone should be prepared for a change,” Fejarang said.
The leaders briefly looked at the next fiscal year, which starts October 2014. Annual requirements, such as fitness test and weapons qualification, were discussed as well.