ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - "Buen Binidu and Hafa Adai!" (translated into the native Chamorro, this means "welcome and greetings!") These were the opening remarks of Lt. Col. Jefferey Slown, commander, Task Force Talon, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, as he addressed the general meeting of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee at the Outrigger Hotel in Tumon, Guam, Sept. 11.
The AFC is a subordinate group of the Chamber of Commerce that maintains and strengthens ties between the military and local businesses while looking out for the interests of each community. Military and community leaders from across the island of Guam attended the event.
Slown, a featured speaker, briefed committee members on the history, current status, and road ahead for the 200 member task force, which deployed in April 2013 to defend Guam from ballistic missile attack.
Slown reminded the audience of the important mission and continued relevance of the task force's presence on Guam, "... [O]ur mission is just as important today and will be for the foreseeable future. The threat still exists."
Task Force Talon is striving to achieve permanent stationing on Guam, though the specific timeline of when permanency will occur remains undefined.
"[The] DoD is working with the Fish and Wildlife Service here in Guam along with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Guam State Historic Preservation Office, the Joint Guam Program Office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Guam Protection Agency, and the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans to ensure that THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) stationing will have no significant impact to the environment of Guam," explained Slown.
In working with federal and state agencies, there are several regulatory steps that must be addressed to achieve the objective of permanent stationing. One of the key mandates is that of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Part of NEPA compliance involves receiving community feedback through public information meetings. Two public information meetings were held June 25 and 27 at the villages of Barrigada and Dededo, respectively.
Slown shared some of the comments received during the meetings, including the following remarks from a Guam citizen - "I personally believe that your [Task Force Talon's] ability to successfully defend Guam will be far better with Soldiers and their Families also permanently stationed on-island. As an indigenous Chamorro American and Guamanian, I would welcome these Soldiers and their Families as not just fellow Americans, but as community members and fellow Guamanians."
"The Task Force remains committed to supporting the Guam communities just as we have done since we arrived over two years ago," said Slown.
Slown further demonstrated the Task Force's commitment to the community by informing the AFC of volunteer efforts undertaken by Soldiers on their off-duty time. He informed the audience that Soldiers have completed over 2500 volunteer hours at the Machanaonao Elementary School in Yigo. Task Force members also repainted parking lines and fences to ensure another local school in Dededo was prepared for the school year that is now underway.
Slown expressed, "The highlight for the Task Force was participating, for the first time, in the 71st Liberation Day Parade this past summer. Not only was the Task Force able to show our support and resolve to those that have come before us to make this island great but the support and cheers we heard along the parade route was truly inspiring."
Slown was honored to be invited to speak at the AFC event, stating, "To be recognized by this committee and the Guam Chamber of Commerce is an honor that shows the Task Force is respected by a community that truly enjoys having us here. The opportunity to speak on September 11th made the occasion that much more special."