By Frank Whitman
Guam Army National Guard soldiers providing security for the Terminal High Altitude Area. The defense system took part in a transfer of authority ceremony Dec. 5 at Andersen Air Force Base.
The ceremony marked the completion of the one-year on-island deployment of 100 members of the Guard who comprise what was named Team Sindalu. It marked the start of a similar deployment for its replacement, Team Binadu, as soldiers in that unit took up the responsibility for the security of the missile defense system.
It is the seventh time Guam Guard members have been deployed to provide security at the THAAD site.
Sindalu and Binadu are the CHamoru words for warrior and deer, respectively. Binadu was chosen because deer defend themselves in packs, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Stafford, commander of Task Force Talon, the unit that contributes to the overall missile defense of the Indo-Pacific region.
In remarks during the ceremony, Stafford noted several challenges Team Sindalu faced during the deployment.
The most notable challenge was the fury and destruction caused by Typhoon Mawar in May.
About half of the deployed Guard members had damaged homes and many more were without power and water following the storm.
“Despite the impact to their homes and their families, once the all-clear was given after the typhoon Team Sindalu quickly restored site security and began clearing debris along a 10-mile road route,” Stafford said. “Once all of the debris was removed (Sindalu) soldiers then provided security for the convoy activity that brought the THAAD equipment back to the site to reestablish the missile defense operation over Guam.”
In addition to dealing with their own post-typhoon issues, Team Sindalu soldiers took part in 20 community service projects to help public schools reopen after the storm, Stafford said.
Another challenge faced by Sindalu came in August when soldiers responded to several drones flown over the site. “Not knowing the intentions of the operators of the drones, we had to visit them as though their intent was malicious,” said Capt. Denise Chargualaf, company commander of Team Sindalu. “So we had to go through the different protocols that we have in place in order to make sure that the drone did not cause any damage or harm to critical equipment on the site.”
One of Sindalu’s responsibilities was to complete the move of the THAAD system from the Northwest Field area of Andersen to the former South Finegayan housing area, which has been dubbed Excalibur by the military.
Though the move had been largely completed by the previous security team, some items were left on Northwest Field and Task Force Talon was required to be off Northwest Field by Oct. 1, Chargualaf said. “After the typhoon, there was a whole slew of things that were strewn about (at Northwest Field). We obviously needed to assist with moving.”
The THAAD area at Northwest Field was smaller than its current space at Finegayan, Stafford said. He hopes to make improvements on the new site.
“Our biggest challenge that we have in the task force is that the site is currently a very austere site,” he said. “We’re operating out of small containers. So we’re in the process of trying to get permanent infrastructure established at site Excalibur. That is really our biggest challenge right now as a task force is to improve working conditions for all of our soldiers there.”
Stafford had high praise for the job performance of the soldiers of the Guam National Guard. “I can’t say enough about the fantastic job the Guam National Guard has done over the last few years on this security mission,” he said. “I think a lot of this success is because of the buy-in from the Guam National Guard because they are here defending their island, their people, their homeland.”