By Sgt. Edward SiguenzaDecember 30, 2013
CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan (Dec. 30, 2013) -- Operation Enduring Freedom is quickly coming to a close for the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment.
Task Force Guam's first wave of troops departed Afghanistan today and will soon return to U.S. soil to commence a redeployment process. Overall, Guam will depart Afghanistan in clusters, with its final push slated for late December.
"You can see everyone's excited and they should be. We've been here nine months and have been a very, very busy battalion," said Maj. Rickey M. Flores, Task Force Guam executive officer, who's leading the first group out of the country. "There's still a lot that needs to be done before we finally make our way to Guam. But right now, this is an important day. We're starting to come home. We'll be with our families very soon."
The Guam was distributed at locations in Afghanistan, and its exodus will take place at multiple terminals. In stages, Guam Soldiers will unite at an American base in Europe before flying to Camp Shelby, Miss., for medical and administrative demobilization.
Likewise, Guam's replacement unit, the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, continues trickling into Afghanistan and will reach full strength by the time Guam officially transfers authority shortly after Christmas Day.
"They're our new best friends," said Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, Task Force Guam commander, about the 508th. "We're providing as much information on how we performed as a Task Force so they can plan their operations. Every aspect, from our platoon sergeants to company commanders to special staff, is actively engaged in this transition."
The 508th will operate as Task Force 2-Fury, said Maj. Mike J. McDermott, executive officer. McDermott is part of an advanced team that arrived in early December to start the transition.
"Task Force Guam is squared away," McDermott said. "We've been looking at their [standard operating procedures] and checking what needs to be changed. Honestly, we couldn't think of anything. That says a lot about the Guam National Guard."
This is the first time the 508th will replace a National Guard unit, McDermott explained. Unlike the 294th's strength of nearly 600 Soldiers, Task Force 2-Fury will operate with about 400 troops, and still show presence in the International Security Assistance Force's six regional commands, just like the Guam Soldiers did.
"This is a totally different mission than what we've previously done," said McDermott. "But we're a very experienced battalion."
The 508th is making it's fourth Afghanistan deployment since 2007. Some Soldiers were here in 2012, said 1st Lt. William Hernandez, Task Force 2-Fury personnel officer.
When Guam officially concludes its Operation Enduring Freedom duties, it will have amassed more than 10,000 missions in roles such as personal security, guardian angels and security forces, Flores explained. Other responsibilities included perimeter security and entry control point missions, and all elements of the unit were instrumental in supporting the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan's overall goal to support Afghanistan's national security.
"Everyone was committed to duty despite the dangers that existed," Flores stated. "Soldiers were still willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good."