BARRIGADA, Guam – More than 7,000 miles from the continental United States, the guards stand “Always ready, always there” where America’s day begins.
Far – across the world, and still a day ahead of the rest of the nation – Guam’s Citizen Soldiers and Airmen are as important to the National Guard’s top leadership as the Guardsmen anywhere. elsewhere.
The Chief of National Guard Bureau’s troop visits and key leadership engagements here this week highlighted the importance of the Guam National Guard.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson’s stop in Guam was part of a Pacific itinerary that included visits with Hawaiian guardsmen and senior leaders from the US Indo-Pacific Command. The missions performed by members of the Guam and Hawaiian Guard support their territory and state – as well as the combatant commander’s priorities and the nation’s strategic objectives.
At the Pacific Disaster Center in Kihei, Hawaii, Hokanson heard how the center consolidates information to help reduce disaster risk at home, providing global risk intelligence, early warning and predictive modeling to partners, including the National Guard Bureau.
“Accurate information helps everyone from individual citizens to local, state and federal agencies build resilience,” said the National Guard’s highest-ranking general. Hokanson recently stressed the importance of preparedness, partnerships and resilience.
Over a week, Hokanson visited numerous units, many in remote locations, hearing from soldiers and airmen, from commanders to new recruits, one-on-one and in small groups. And the general met with senior state, territory and combatant command officials.
On the islands of Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Oahu and Guam, the general questions the troops: “What motivated you to enlist? … What is your civilian career? …Tell me about your family?” He swore in four of the Guard’s newest recruits and gleaned insights from some of the component’s senior members.
“Nothing beats sharing food with our troops and hearing their stories, successes and concerns,” Hokanson said. “Any day that I can go out with our guards where they live, train and work is a great day.”
These visits also allow the general to continuously assess the progress of the component against its priorities: people, readiness, modernization, reform.
Visiting the Hawaii Guard on a weekend of exercises before its stopover in Guam, Hokanson found troops training, including hands-on time with weapons and physical conditioning tasks.
For Army Capt. Kevin Tam, 229th Cavalry, Hokanson’s visit created a training opportunity even before the general arrived. It was an opportunity to refresh his troops’ understanding of the National Guard’s leadership structure and the role of its most senior general as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advising the Secretary of Defense and the Commander-in-Chief.
Tam’s platoon leaders met with the general in a small group, discussing issues such as recruitment and retention, health care and how to maximize soldier task training. Among the unit’s unique challenges: Soldiers shuttle from three different islands for monthly drills.
The 292nd Combat Communications Squadron is a new unit, still standing, which actively participates in the modernization of the National Guard. “Being part of something brand new is an honor,” Air Force Master Sgt. Gavin Raquel told Hokanson.
The 298th Hawaii Support Squadron remains on duty at a remote location on the island of Kauai, enhancing the nation’s air defense capabilities by providing intelligence to the Pacific Air Defense Sector, supporting air sovereignty in the Pacific. ‘America.
“Taking the general out is a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” the Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Dunn, the squadron’s senior enlisted member. “We’re at the start of the chain supporting a much bigger mission, and so bringing in someone of his stature, just to be able to think of us when the big decisions are made, means a lot.”
Given its remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the unit operates under what is sometimes referred to as the tyranny of time and distance: logistics, supply and communication are at the heart of military concerns. on the Pacific Islands.
“Knowing that someone at the highest level is thinking about us, can imagine us and really knows where we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it is very important, strategically,” Dunn said.
Air Force Lt. Col. Mariko Boone is the unit’s commanding officer.
The general’s visit highlights the mission of the Pacific Air Defense Sector, Boone said, standing in front of a white geodetic radar dome atop a Kauai mountain. “Especially one of its three geographically separated units. It is one of the primary sites that provides the data, connectivity, and other communications networks to an operations floor to carry out the U.S. air defense mission.
The Hawaii National Guard is twinned with Indonesia and the Philippines under the Department of Defense’s National Guard State Partnership Program. In just one example, Hokanson heard how Hawaii’s 230th Engineer Company supports construction projects in both partner nations and also in Thailand, giving troops valuable real-world training.
SPP partnerships support the objectives of the United States Indo-Pacific Command. Both partners are preparing for air security, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, maritime security and other areas of interest.
Hokanson’s visit also included aerial assessments of facilities and training ranges and a review of natural threats and responses.
“The National Guard is prepared to respond with little or no notice to natural or man-made disasters,” Hokanson said. “Our ability to do this is enabled by training and equipment derived from our primary mission as the Army and Air Force combat reserve.”
The Hawaii National Guard supported the local, state, and federal response to the 2018 Kilauea eruption. The eruption destroyed 716 homes, covered 30 miles of roads, flooded nearly 14 square miles with lava up to 180 feet deep and created 875 acres of new land where the ocean used to be. The highest ash plume reached 30,000 feet above sea level and the eruption repeatedly released energy equivalent to a magnitude 5.2 to 5.4 earthquake.
Hawaii and Guam’s natural threats also include hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods.
“The National Guard is continually engaged in the complex missions necessary to fight America’s wars, secure the homeland, and maintain enduring partnerships at the local, state, federal and international levels,” Hokanson said.
In Guam, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane Aguon, an intelligence officer with the 105th Troop Command, said Hokanson’s visit was an example of hands-on leadership. Troops have realized how important it is to continue spending time with the force, both to avoid losing touch with troop concerns and to give back, regardless of rank and heavy responsibilities.
“We already know he’s looking at the bigger picture,” Aguon said, “but it’s great that he’s going to all 54 states and territories and seeing how they’re contributing to the mission.
“It means a lot to the soldiers and also serves as motivation. It is a motivation for the soldier to progress through the ranks: the simple fact of receiving a coin of excellence from a four star, you never know, this soldier could well become an officer one day and strive to become a leader from the National Guard Office. »
Army Corporal. Virginia Sos-Carter, 1224th Engineers, was one of the Guam troops Hokanson sat with for a few minutes during his visit. “It’s an honor,” she said.
Along the trip, the general also met with recruiters to assess the status of National Guard recruiting and retention programs, and his wife, Kelly Hokanson, met with military spouses and discussed support programs. family.
“The support of our families, friends, communities and employers keeps us ‘always ready, always there,'” the general said.
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