Hundreds of service members with the Guam National Guard continue to assist with the response efforts during the public health emergency.
Many of the Guard members have been assigned to work at the government hotel quarantine sites.
“The morale is probably the highest we’ve ever seen these past two years. When our soldiers and airmen come to drill and train, this response to this pandemic is exactly what they train for, so they are very excited that they get to respond to a national crisis right here at their home,” said Maj. Gen. Esther Aguigui, the adjutant general of the Guam National Guard.
Aguigui said the Guam Guard, which is working with a $2.8 million budget during this pandemic, also recently secured an additional $3.3 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act. The federal assistance, she said, has helped save the government of Guam from using local funding.
“Guam, you are in good hands,” she said.
On Friday, the media was given a briefing inside the Joint Task Force 671 headquarters set up at the Barrigada Readiness Center.
Brig. Gen. Johnny Lizama is the dual status commander at JTF 671. He oversees operations for guardsmen, reservists and active-duty service members, whether in a Title 10 or Title 32 status, and federal entities responding to the COVID-19 crisis on island.
Col. Ron Delfin is the title 32 deputy dual status commander.
“As incidents become more severe, our level of response increases,” Delfin said.
The task force works directly with Guam Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess and plan operations and missions deemed necessary to help in the fight against the virus.
“We are always in support of a federal agency or local agency. In this case, we are in support of public health because of the emergency. The purpose of it is in order to save lives, prevent suffering and maintain order,” he said. “Our priority is to protect our force. We don’t want the force to become ill, we don’t want them to become infected and become a part of the problem.”
The task force gets its FEMA mission assignments from State Coordinating Officer Chuck Esteves, Defense Coordinating Officer Jeff Barone and Federal Coordinating Officer Chuck Ada.
“If we spent money that could potentially be reimbursable for the government of Guam, we capture all those costs and be sure that we send that back up to the Office of Civil Defense so they know what are the costs associated with this activation,” Delfin said. “We tell the agencies to be clear about what they are going to ask us to do.”
Like many, the Guam National Guard planned for the worst-case scenario.
About 300 Guard members are assigned to assist with response efforts at the Department of Revenue and Taxation, the Guam International Airport Authority, Andersen Air Force Base, the four government hotel quarantine sites and more.
The mission has included providing security and decontamination.
“Your contributions to this fight brings value to our community,” Aguigui said in her message to the Guam National Guard men and women. “You are the reason why everyone feels braver. Because you are visible, you are everywhere and most of all you are serving your island and nation.”