By Alex J. Rhowuniong
Guam’s new task force deployed to guard THAAD at AAFB
From left: Private First Class Kimo Kenner with girlfriend, Jana Soulmai; Specialist Neo Hashimoto with his mother, Keiko Hashimoto; Staff Sgt. Manolito Molinos pins a ribbon on his son, Mason Molinos. Members of Task Force Guatdia (SecFor3 Unit) were honored during a ceremony at the Barrigada Readiness Complex in Barrigada as they embarked on a security mission to guard the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense site at Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo. Photos by Alex Rhowuniong
Members of the Security Forces 3 (SecFor3), a newly formed unit within the Guam National Guard, have been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base to guard the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
The SecFor3 soldiers were honored during a send-off ceremony at the Barrigada Readiness Complex Wednesday afternoon. The security unit is also called "Task Force Guatdia."
“This mobilization ceremony for SecFor3, Task Force Guatdia, is the third consecutive rotation of security forces to our air defense capabilities on Guam; specifically, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery, better known as THAAD," Maj. Gen. Esther Aguigui, the adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, said in her opening remarks."
“Like the defenders from Task Force Guahan and Task Force Hita, you, too, are ordered to secure and guard the assets charged to the protection of 162,000 civilians, strategic Navy and Air Force assets, and the regional homeland defense," Aguigui told the task force members.
"Federally activated, but locally deployed, you are serving both our national and state missions at the same time. No mission addresses our role as defenders of freedom for both Guam and the United States, simultaneously, as this SecFor mission,” she added.
While some of the troops’ family members expressed natural dislike for their loved ones being sent out for deployment, many are grateful that they are not deployed off-island. The task force members have been mobilized to deploy from their Guard home in the central village of Barrigada to AAFB in the northern tip of Yigo.
“It’s not like your usual deployment,” said SecFor3 Unit commander, Capt. Farin Mondia, “where you get deployed and go off-island overseas. We’re actually being mobilized to deploy to Andersen Air Force Base, where we’ll be providing security for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense site up at the base.”
Former governor Eddie Calvo led other local officials who greeted the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Unit, Task Force Talon at Andersen Air Force Base in this Dec. 20, 2017 file photo, Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said with this mission, the task force is not only protecting the island, but the region and the world, as well.
“I want you to know that the community supports you. We are behind you, and we have the utmost confidence in you. As your commander-in-chief, I am very honored, very proud of the work that do forever," the governor said. “Please, protect us. We are counting on you.”
Private First Class Kimo Kenner, a member of Task Force Guatdia, said he’s “very lucky and blessed” to be deployed while remaining stationed on Guam with his family during his very first mission.
“I thought my first mission would be to the southwest border (of the mainland United States),” said Kenner, 26, a resident of Dededo. “I signed up for more than one mission. But this came up first.”
U.S.-born Kenner, whose parents are from Chuuk, is eager to do his duty to defend the nation.
Staff Sgt. Manolito Molinos, also a member of SecFor3 and a decorated war veteran, said he is looking forward to working at AAFB.
Molinos served two tours at the Horn of Africa, Operation Enduring Freedom- Philippines and a tour of Afghanistan. This is his fifth deployment. "But this is the first time I get deployed on-island," said the Dededo resident.
Molinos said he is unsure of what to expect at AAFB despite having been deployed four times in the past. “It's going to be very challenging, I think, because it's home,” said Molinos, 44. “And we're going to face, perhaps, a lot of issues dealing with time management and such. But we’ll have to do what we have to.”
Specialist Neo Hashimoto, 27, of Yona, was also unsure of what to expect. He is getting deployed for the first time and very eager to move forward.
The Task Force Guatdia is charged with the heavy responsibility of guarding the THAAD site against foreign and domestic enemies.
According to powerpoint presentation during the ceremony, the new SecFor 3 Unit has been in training for the past months for this very mission. And, they are more ready to defend the nation and Guam with their lives.
“It all started in February (2020) when I was chosen to be SecFor3 commander,” said Montia, who was involved with signal and cybersecurity when she was tapped for the new task.
“The command ended up providing me with a roster to choose soldiers from to be part of SecFor3 mission,” Montia said. “They all came from multiple units of the Guard… infantry, medical detachment, troop commands, etc.”
Leon Guerrero said the THAAD battery was deployed to Guam in 2013, at the request of former congresswoman, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, in response to growing threats from North Korea.
North Korea frequently threatens to lob intercontinental ballistic missiles on Guam. Most recently in 2017, Pyongyang made plans to fire missiles at AAFB following tensed war-on-words between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, who warned North Korea of a “fire and fury like the world has never seen."
“THAAD,” according to Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, “is designed to protect against short (up to 1,000 km), medium (1,000 – 3,000 km), and intermediate (3,000 – 5,000 km) range ballistic missiles either inside or just outside the atmosphere, offering greater protection for troops by intercepting the incoming missile further from its target.”
In light of adversarial regional activities, especially with regards to China, North Korea and Russia, the scope of SecFor3’s mission becomes considerably colossal.
Recently, Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said China has become the No.1 troublemaker for U.S. in the region.
The region, according to USINDOPACOM website, includes “36 nations and home to more than 50 percent of the world's population with 3,000 different languages, with seven of the world's ten largest standing militaries and five of the world's declared nuclear nations---five nations allied with the U.S. through mutual defense treaties---two of the three largest economies and 10 of the 14 smallest, including the most populous nation in the world, the largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation."
The region is considered a vital driver of the global economy and includes the world's busiest international sea lanes and nine of the 10 largest ports.
“Given these conditions, the strategic complexity facing the region is unique.”
North Korea, Russia, potential terrorists from rogue nations, and natural disasters are still part of the challenges in the area, Davidson said earlier. But the U.S. is noticing more and more of “China’s pernicious approach in the region to coerce, corrupt and contest values embraced by the idea of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Read related stories
Guam Guard to assume responsibility for THAAD mission
Today, Washington recognizes that all three, China, Russia and North Korea including Iran, are now capable of producing advanced missiles. So, the Department of Defense is looking into space to up the ante.
According to spacenews.com: “While typically it would take the Defense Department a decade to field such systems, the Space Development Agency plans to have satellites in orbit within two years.”
In an article in Space News, “the Pentagon’s new space agency is working to develop a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to serve as the eyes and ears of military forces in the field.”
To the families of service members, talks about power building and potential conflict, are major causes for fear and worry.
Molino's youngest son, 10-year -old Mason, said he did not want his father to leave. "When (dad) goes away, I'll really miss him," the younger Molinos said. "I don’t like his deployment. It makes me think about my brother, which makes me really mad because I really miss my brother."
SPC Hashimoto’s mother, Keiko Hashimoto, said everything was still new to her. So she did not know how exactly to process the whole thing yet: “But I’m glad he’s not going off-island.”
Kenner’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Jana Soulmai, also of Dededo, said: "I'm proud of him! And I push him to jump on all the missions because he wants to be a decorated veteran one day. He might as well start young, so hopefully (later) he can be as decorated as he wants to be. And I’m happy he’s just going to be here on Guam."