by Mindy Aguon
Guam - An incident at the Guam National Guard's Readiness Center caused panic and concern this morning as authorities responded to a reported shooting. An active duty member of the Guam Army National Guard is in critical condition at Naval Hospital.
Normal operations at the Command Joint Force Headquarters building in Barrigada were suspended after a soldier attempted to take his life this morning.
Guam Police Department spokesperson Officer A.J. Balajadia told KUAM News, "We responded to an injured person at about 11:25 this morning at the National Guard Headquarters and 50+-year-old male individual was reported to NRMC with an injury to the head." Yellow caution tape blocked off the grassy area in front of the headquarters as police combed the area speaking with various members of the National Guard.
The shooting occurred near the Fallen Heroes Memorial.
Guam Fire Department spokesperson Lieutenant Ed Artero says medics transported him to the Agana Heights medical facility for a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He remains in critical condition. Guam National Guard public information officer Captain Ken Ola says the Guard is conducting an internal review of what led to the incident.
"We're looking at all the different angles, the personnel side of course and the incident side," he stated, adding, "I'm not at liberty to discuss any details at this point, but I can assure you that the protocols are being followed at this point."
KUAM News has learned that the soldier was supposed to stop working at the Guard in December. No reasons have been given on why he was no longer to report, but Captain Ola confirms that there is an ongoing realignment of full time personnel that is occurring not just on Guam, but nationwide.
He could not confirm whether the soldier involved in today's incident was impacted by the ongoing realignment. In the last ten years, there has been an alarming number of suicides among service members prompting military leaders to change the way they approach suicide prevention by addressing the needs of soldiers and helping them cope with stress, depression and medical issues. Just last week the Army released suicide data and for this year alone, the Army reports a total of 131 potential active duty suicides, 80 confirmed and 51 under investigation.
Captain Ola says the Guard has been more proactive in spreading awareness about suicide among soldiers, noting, "There is a suicide prevention program and our chaplain is intimately involved in it and soldiers go through consistent training on suicide prevention and part of suicide prevention is trying to spot who may be high-risk."
The soldier meanwhile remains in critical condition at Naval Hospital.