BY MARK RABAGO
AMERICAN MEMORIAL PARK, Saipan — Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said while the NMI remains supportive of the Guam National Guard relaunching its recruitment drive in the islands, it still one day hopes that the Commonwealth will have its own NMI National Guard.
“…We’re working on having our own National Guard here and we have the support from both the government of Guam and Maj. Esther Aguigui, who is the adjutant general of the Guam National Guard,” he said during the enlistment ceremony for Reyel Mar “Carlo” Quezon on June 8 at the American Memorial Park.
The 28-year-old former graphic designer at 670 Rocksteady Shop is the 40th NMI soldier to enlist in the Guam National Guard since 2014 and is currently the seventh active member from the NMI in the unit.
Torres said the fact that Quezon enlisted shows that there’s some interest locally to join the National Guard, which can lead to the NMI having its own unit.
“This is actually a good opportunity for us to look at the partnership and the fact we have one of ours enlist again in the Guam National Guard. It shows there’s an interest and you see all the disasters [here] where they activate the National Guard to provide help,” Torres said. He was alluding to super typhoons Soudelor and Yutu that devastated the NMI in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
The governor admitted there are some stumbling blocks for the Northern Marianas to have its own National Guard.
“There’s quite a few issues. One is funding and support and to make sure we have the right population and that we have enough interest to enlist. So, we look at the number of reservists and of course now with the National Guard. Those are the data that’s important for us to provide and for us to move forward to getting our own National Guard.”
Torres said TAG and the U.S. Army hasn’t given the Office of the Governor any type of timeline as to when the push for having an NMI National Guard could finally bear fruit.
“No timeline yet but we’ve been getting a lot of support. Those are the support that we need for us to move forward.”
On Quezon being the first enlistee of the Guam National Guard after eight years, Torres said he’s proud of the Marianas High School alumnus.
“I want to congratulate him and the family and especially the parents that are here. I heard that he’s been wanting to do this and now that he enlisted, I want to congratulate him and encourage anybody whether you’re here in the CNMI or from anywhere else in the U.S. I encourage folks to enlist and be part of the services that give a lot back to the community.”
Maj. Juan Manalo King, who swore in Quezon, said it’s a monumental day for the Guam National Guard to finally enlist someone from the neighboring islands of the NMI.
“It was nice, and the event was very significant. Having the governor and the [enlistee’s] family and doing it here at this park it’s a very significant event and we’d like to thank the CNMI government and more importantly the governor himself for being here so we’re very thankful for that.”
King, who himself is the proud son of Rota, said plans are afoot to build back the Guam National Guard’s recruitment operations here in the CNMI.
“How many we get is up to how we drive the recruitment process,” he said.
For Quezon, enlisting in the Guam National Guard fulfills a lifelong ambition to join the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I was in the [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps] back when I was in high school and was also part of Reserve Officer Training Corps when I was in college. Now that I found out there’s a Guam unit for the National Guard I did my research and the recruiters were very helpful, so that’s when I pretty much opened the door for me to enlist,” he said.
U.S. Army boot camp beckons in August for Quezon, a distant relative of the Philippines’ Commonwealth-era President Manuel L. Quezon, and his advice to those who are still on the fence about enlisting in the military is, “It’s never too late…just do it…there’s no good time; there’s no perfect time. It’s just the time you decide to open the door and join and that’s pretty much it.”
He will eventually be trained to be a horizontal construction engineer in the Guam National Guard.
Quezon’s fiancée Renalyn Tacliad said she’s supporting him joining the military all the way.
“I’m very proud and he didn’t do much to convince me. Even before we were together I already knew he wanted to get into the military but he didn’t pursue it yet until now when he decided to pursue it,” she said.
While she’ll surely miss and long for Quezon once he flies out for bootcamp sometime after their wedding, Tacliad assured him that they’ll be here waiting patiently for him.
“Message is we will be waiting for you!”
Master Sgt. Jonathan Guzman, who was also present during the enlistment ceremony, said the National Guard is a component of the U.S. Army.
“There’s the active duty Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard. The difference between the three is on the mission—there’s a federal mission where you fall under the President of the United States and there’s the state mission where you fall under the governor.”
The Guam National Guard falls under the Office of Governor of Guam.
Guzman said the role of the National Guard becomes doubly important during natural disasters.
“In the event of a natural disaster like Super Typhoon Yutu when it happened here the governor of Guam mobilized the Guam National Guard to Saipan to assist with the effort. We can actually deploy anywhere in the world and it just depends on the needs of the nation and our island.”
On recruitment operations in the NMI, Guzman echoed King on their plans to reboot recruitment operations on the islands.
“We’re specifically recruiting for the Guam National Guard and it’s to fill our capacities within our organization and we’re looking to do that throughout the Marianas. ”He also wishes that the CNMI will have its own National Guard one day. “If it does come, it will be a great day.”
Aside from Tacliad and their daughter, also present during the enlistment ceremony were Quezon’s mother, Marieta Cepeda; his brother, Randy Ferrer; and his father, Antonio Cepeda, who said that Quezon is the youngest in the brod and he’s happy that his adopted son is finally fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a soldier.
Shortly after being sworn in, Quezon also got his $20,000 enlistment bonus from the Guam National Guard. mbj