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Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

From left: Spc. Justin K.T. Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Dan D. Pocaigue and Staff Sgt. Erico M. Santos of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, take a break at North Kaia, Kabul, Afghanistan in one of their final Operation Enduring Freedom missions in early December. (SGT. EDDIE SIGUENZA) By SGT. EDWARD SIGUENZA
1-294th Infantry Regiment

CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan—Task Force Guam is counting down its last remaining commitment to Operation Enduring Freedom 2013. Although exact departure dates cannot be released due to operations security, the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, began prepping its Afghanistan exodus weeks ago and anxiously awaits important upcoming movement.

However, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. Guam needs to complete its last mission responsibilities and that means securing everything it had logistically obtained and properly accounting for personnel and property before leaving Afghanistan.

“We want to make sure that everything is handed off properly to our replacements,” said Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, Task Force Guam commander. “Our goal is to make things easier for the unit arriving soon. We will be share lessons learned from the issues we had to overcome and relate what worked for us. We want to make this transition easy and problem-free for both commands.”

Guam’s final countdown looks something like this:

10—Approximate number of days until Task Force Guam’s first wave of bodies starts leaving Afghanistan. It’ll take a few trips to send close to 600 soldiers out of the country, and even more of an effort to bring together the soldiers who were stationed at more than a dozen locations throughout the country.

9—Months that have passed since Guam’s 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment embarked on this historic mission. First stop: Camp Shelby, Miss., where soldiers received validation and pre-deployment training. Task Force Guam began its OEF mission in April.

8—Average number of hours it’ll take to fly from a European destination—the initial site Guam soldiers will head to when leaving Afghanistan—to United States soil. Guam soldiers will still have to medically and administratively out-process at its de-mobilization station. Unfortunately, this will take a few days.

7—The number of subordinate companies the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment brought to Afghanistan that will successfully complete this historic OEF. Guam has never sent a battalion-sized element to any military operation.

6—Task Force Guam occupied all six regional commands of the International Security Assistance Force, the organization of coalition forces assigned to assist the Afghan National Security Forces.

5—Times 10 and in pounds, the average weight of body armor a soldier carries around when on a mission. This includes the tactical vest, ammunition, weapon and necessities (like snacks) a soldier drapes on his body almost every day. This is important information because, in a few weeks, it will no longer be a concern.

4—Words in the phrase, “We’re coming home soon!”

3—Number of Yellow Ribbon ceremonies during the upcoming reintegration process. These will occur at different times throughout 2014.

2—Approximate number of days after Task Force Guam transfers authority to its replacements—2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army—will send its final batch of troops out of Afghanistan. The 508th will officially succeed Guam at the conclusion of a late-December ceremony.

1—The loneliest number won’t be much longer once 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment and its 550-plus Chamorro warriors return home and everyone becomes one big happy family—once again.

The 508th will make its fourth OEF mission since 2007, according to Lt. Col. Andrew S. Zieseniss, 508th commander. The 508th, from Fort Bragg, N.C., will operate as Task Force 2-Fury.

Coincidentally, when a company-sized Guam Guard element supported OEF in 2008, Guam’s last Afghanistan mobilization, its replacement was also from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Task Force Guam relieved Task Force Centurion—1st Battalion, 167th Infantry Regiment from the Alabama Army National Guard—in April.

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