BY WAYNE CHARGUALAF
Since being confirmed as the new State Adjutant General for Guam on May 5 — giving her command of both the Army and Air National Guard on Guam — Maj. Gen. Esther J.C. Aguigui has focused on growth.
“An immediate priority is that we need to grow the force, not only in terms of its footprint, but also grow strategically,” Aguigui told the Journal. “The world’s eyes are on Guam because there’s a lot of activity happening in the Indo-Pacific region and Guam is central to that, so growing our force — both Army and Air — will play a significant role in the defense of our nation, especially in this region.”
As part of this growth, the Guard is seeking to add aerial refueling to the Air Guard’s capabilities.
“We are trying to bridge efforts with the Alaska National Guard to possibly receive a tanker mission,” she said. “Andersen Air Force Base has the largest jet fuel tank in the Pacific and so we’d like to take advantage of that capability. Who better to do that than our Air National Guard members? They’re certainly capable of the mission.”
As part of this growth, the Guard is in the process of standing up a space command squadron that would work closely with the Air Force space command elements currently stationed on Guam and in Hawaii. Aguigui said such an addition can increase the island’s ability to counter space and aerial threats such as those posed by North Korea’s missile capability.
“The governor is very excited about the space command because it will bring about many opportunities for the island and, most importantly, it will provide us with a national security capability to defend ourselves and maybe our neighbors,” Aguigui said.
The addition of a space command squadron and aerial refueling mission will likely require even more units to support them, further supporting Aguigui’s aim of growing the force.
“There will probably be a ripple effect because with every new mission, you need support units,” she said. “So take, for example, the space command. Along with that, maybe there’ll be an intelligence unit that will be assigned to it, and also a force support squadron, a medical unit, a cyber unit, all the different supporting elements to ensure the space command’s mission is met.”
An increase in units also means an increase in employment opportunities, Aguigui said. Along with employment, however, Aguigui said a growth in the Guard’s numbers means there will also be an increase in construction, which will add more economic growth not only through construction activity but the presence of the buildings themselves.
“We’re adding value to our real estate footprint, because federal property — federal buildings — always add value to the surrounding area and an increase in value means a better standard of living,” she said.
Many of the construction projects involve increasing the footprint for the Guard’s Army component. The Guard is looking to build a new unit to house its infantry, which at about 700 soldiers has outgrown its current building. A new readiness center to house its engineering unit is also in the works.
Along with increasing the Guam Army Guard’s footprint, Aguigui aims to increase their relevance and importance to the larger Army.
“As far as the Army is concerned, we’ve always been relevant, but now the active duty Army is starting to see how they can save a whole lot of money by turning over missions to the National Guard, because we’re the permanent party here,” she said.
An example of this is the Guard assuming responsibility for the security of Task Force Talon, which operates the terminal high altitude area defense battery anti-ballistic missile system — also known as the THAAD.
As the United States continues to contend with rivals such as North Korea and China, its ongoing missions stemming from the Global War on Terror and other obligations around the world, Aguigui said the Guam National Guard is poised to meet any challenge demanded of it.
“Readiness is our number one priority,” she said. “You’ve got to be mentally, physically, tactically and technically ready to defend the nation at a moment’s notice. You have to be ready to fight tonight.” mbj
Guam National Guard construction projects
Aircraft maintenance bay
- Cost to date: $4.7 million
- Construction ongoing
Vehicle storage bay
- Cost: $2.7 million
- Request for proposal to be released before end of fiscal 2019
Army National Guard readiness center (engineer and aviation)
- Cost: $34 million
- Pending design authority released
Army National Guard readiness center (infantry)
- Cost: $45 million
- Project planning document charrette [a collaborative design workshop] planned for fiscal 2020
Network operations center
- Cost: $5.9 million
- Proposed for fiscal 2021
Army National Guard readiness center addition and alteration (medical detachment)
- Cost: $11 million
- Proposed for fiscal 2026
Future expansion plans and projects
- Cyberspace facility
- Relocation of main entrance to Barrigada complex
- Fire house
- Army combat fitness test field house
- Running trail
- Morale, welfare and recreation facilities