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New Guam-based command structure touted to beef up regional defense

Updated: Jun 26

 

Gregory Huffman

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


The Joint Task Force Micronesia will assume command and control of defense forces in the U.S-affiliated island region, bolstering up protection in the event of a conflict while reinforcing the deterrence strategy, according to its commander.


“If we set the posture the right way, we are ready to protect,” said Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman, who leads the newly minted two-star command.

 

Speaking Tuesday before the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay at the Hyatt Regency Guam, Huffman said his command will be in charge of the soon-to-be-built Guam missile defense system.

 

“But really, what we bring is a deterrence capacity. If we are ready to go, it will make the adversaries—whoever they might be— take a step back and go ‘today is not the day. Today is not the day that I'm going to risk things because the United States is postured too well here,'” Huffman said.

 

Representing the Honolulu-based Indo-Pacific Command, Task Force Micronesia aims to shorten Guam’s distance from the headquarters.

 

“A lot of things now are driven from Hawaii, and that's a bit far away when you're talking about all of the activity that's going on here,” Huffman said. “So, this is the fulfillment of a commitment to Guam, to the defense of Guam and then to the defense of the entire region.”

 


The standing up of Task Force Micronesia was prompted by escalating tensions in the region, where the U.S. seeks to keep China’s aggression in check.


“It goes back to that commitment from the Indo-Pacific Command. It is to establish an operationally focused staff here on the island to be able to deal with all of the things that are happening throughout this region,” Huffman said. “And in the end, to ensure stability, security and a free and open Indo-Pacific.”.

 

Huffman officially assumed command of Task Force Micronesia during a change of command ceremony on June 12. Before taking the helm of the task force, Huffman commandeered the Joint Region Marianas, which has since been turned over to Rear Adm. Brent DeVore.

 

Task Force Micronesia and JRM will work hand in hand, each with specifically delineated functions and geographical portfolios.


While JRM focuses on Guam and the CNMI, Huffman’s new command structure has jurisdiction over Guam, the Northern Marianas, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. “So it's a very broad swath of water and territory and people that we are responsible for,” Huffman said. 

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 JRM, a one-star command, will continue providing installation support and managing the construction and related activities at Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam and Marine Corps Base Camp Blas.

 

Task Force Micronesia will have an “overarching” authority, Huffman said. “Looking more from an operational perspective is really where our focus will be,” he added.


Besides the security function, Huffman said Task Force Micronesia will also provide defense support for civil and humanitarian missions, such as disaster response.

 

"Oftentimes, immediately following an event like (Typhoon Mawar), the military has the most robust capability to clear roads, establish generators, start restoring power and water to the people before we hand it over to FEMA and the rest of the federal agencies who will come in and take over the long-term recovery," he said. "So that will be one of the tasks that I will have."


Disaster response is among the Joint Task Force Micronesia's civil tasks. Photo courtesy of AAFB

The disaster response task entails a manpower buildup, such as increasing the number of planners and emergency management experts who will be embedded on Guam. These personnel, Huffman said, will be "ready to work with the civil authorities so that no matter what kind of disaster might befall us, we have a plan in place, we have the ability to react rapidly and restore things."


Staffing and other logistics are still in the early stages. The task force is currently sharing the Nimitz Hill headquarters with JRM.


“Right now, as we are just getting off the ground, we're very integrated with the Joint Region Marianas staff," Huffman said. “So we've kind of fused the two staffs together for this initial tranche of personnel coming."


The task force is estimated to be staffed with 130 personnel coming from different services. “That allows us to leverage that expertise and bring in their capabilities, their unique perspectives and skill sets to form this operational staff," Huffman said. "A large number of those folks are going to be actually operating up at Andersen Air Force Base, and they'll be dedicated to command and control of the Guam defense system."





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