By SGT EDDIE SIGUENZA
Guam Army National Guard
CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan -- Redeploy, reconsolidate, reorganize and reintegrate.
Nearly 600 Guam Army National Guardsmen currently serve under Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and their time to redeploy home is approaching fast. This led to a Command Summit Brief late last month, 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 into civilian life.
"There are a lot of Rs," said Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, Task Force Guam commander, who used the words "re-deployment", "REFRAD" (Released From Active Duty), "Reintegration" and "re-engaging" Soldiers, 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 and figure out what's best for our battalion."
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 (ISAF) 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. We need to socialize our best ideas and develop solutions and plans 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 explained. 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 timeframe 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 minds together where we can share our thoughts and methods. This is where we can build our companies, then put it all together and build our battalion."
The battalion will lose at least two companies when it returns home. The unit will restructure its organization and equipment listing, moving most Soldiers back 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 should go where the job takes them," Tougher added.
With close to 600 Soldiers deployed forward, Tougher and his team will reunite them soon with the more than 200 Soldiers 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 no returning Soldiers ‘flagged', Tougher said. A flagging action in the Army is designed to suspend proceedings that are considered favorable to the Soldier until the Soldier has been trained and the original incident or action has been rectified or corrected.
The leaders also agreed on July 2014 to perform the battalion's annual training. The month ties in with Guam's 70th annual Liberation Day Parade, the island's largest festivity. It was also selected to coincide with events such as the Yellow Ribbon re-integration programs, and the expected timeframe when the redeployed Soldiers will be off scheduled leave.
"When it comes time for planning (for redeployment and future missions on Guam) there's never enough time for that. 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 functions. This helps us get ready for annual training and the year coming up."
Like the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference, personnel issues were thoroughly discussed at this summit. 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 battalion personnel officer Capt. Darrell Fejarang, for the betterment of the battalion as a whole. The battalion will also closely review Soldiers who are currently assigned to warrior transition units, Fejarang added.
"We cannot accommodate every individual Soldier's request. Everyone should be prepared for change," Fejarang said.
The leaders also reviewed requirements for the next fiscal year, which started this month, to include events such as the fitness test and weapons qualification.