Family members in Guam Guard deploying to Afghanistan together
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Specialist Mycolene Palomo and Specialist Vanity Palomo both joined the National Guard to avail of the benefits of being able to attend college while serving their country.
Mycolene told KUAM News, "I love the training. I love the benefits. Being able to go to school, that's one thing. I have a family, so I know I'm going to need to take care of my family." She attends school and intends to major in criminal justice, and her 22-year-old sister joined the Guard three years ago. Vanity said, "It taught me a lot of discipline, self confidence, and courage."
This deployment to Afghanistan will be the first for both of them, but for Vanity the decision to go was completely her own. "My unit wasn't deploying, so I volunteered when I heard about the deployment," she recalled. "I want to wear the patch on my shoulder that shows I've been downrange and I know what kind of soldier I am."
Mycolene has been in the Guard for six years and knew she would eventually receive orders for deployment. "I thought this is what I signed up for and all of my co-workers gave me as much information as I needed to sustain myself and hopefully I'll use that. The experience of just listening to what they went through and I'm thinking I'm as ready as I'll ever be – just continue with the training and focus," she said.
The two sisters have been close growing up and Mycolene is struggling with the reality that her younger sister will be in other places in Afghanistan since the two are in different companies. Mycolene said, "She's going to be my biggest worry out there. Aside from trying to complete the mission, she'll be heavy on my mind. But she's strong and tough. I know because I raised her, too."
Vanity added, "It's scary - she's always going to be on my mind, but I know she's tough. I've seen her all my life." Her sister echoed, "Our mom wants her to stay at least one of her daughters to stay and help her. But they're very confident in us."
Their father has concerns about his two girls being deployed, but they say he shouldn't worry. Mycolene said, "He's scared for the both of us, but he did raise two tough girls so he's got nothing to worry about."
Both are anxious to experience the deployment and return home. Mycolene is looking forward to returning home to her 4-year-old daughter, saying, "Every time we've had to go for month-long training, she really misses me. My other half, Richard, is doing what he can to take care of home, so we'll be alright."
Both women are looking at placing the mission first, staying strong and coming back home. Vanity said, "I want to see how this deployment is going to change me, make me stronger as a soldier and as an individual. And coming back home, it's nice to see grass!" They both exchanged "I love you!" in mid-interview, trying not to cry.
For father-daughter duo Specialists Brittney and Ivan Igitol, this deployment will mark their first. "When my daughter wanted to join, I figured I'd follow," said Ivan. "I wanted to challenge myself and especially after I heard about the benefits. I wanted to go to college and use a little bit of that," said Brittney.
The 19-year-old says she is majoring in criminal justice and is looking forward to this new experience saying it will give her a sense of accomplishment in her life. For Ivan, he's ready for the deployment but has his reservations about his little girl being there, too.
"I'm pretty worried about her. Because she's going to be quite a bit further from where I'm at, but hopefully we'll get in touch somehow," Ivan speculated. "I'll handle it one day at a time."
His daughter said, "I'm worried, of course, but it's always good to know that I do have someone else there with me. Although different areas, but my dad is there. My dad will always be there for me."
The Igitols are two of the 15 soldiers from Saipan who are part of the contingent from Guam and through the deployment preparation process have become family. "The first time we all enlisted, we didn't know each other very well, but coming to drill here on Guam and staying at the Fort where we're just right next to each other, one room away, we've really bonded," said Ivan, with Brittney adding that she's "proud to serve the country, our island."