By Maj. Joel Seppala, operations officer, Task Force Talon, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense CommandNovember 5, 2015
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - As members of Task Force Talon, the Guam-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense-centric unit tasked to defend Guam against ballistic missile attacks, along with their joint and interagency teammates watched the great C-17 cargo plane disappear into the clouds above Andersen Air Force Base, Guam Nov. 5, 2015, they knew they had done something special, even historic.
According to Mr. Donnie Puett, logistics management specialist, THAAD Project Office, the team had just completed "the largest shipment of missiles to and from a deployed location at one time in THAAD history." The purpose of the operation was to replace the entire stock of Task Force THAAD interceptors to maintain operational readiness.
There were only two months between receipt of the tasking during the first week in September and mission completion in early November. In between those dates was an intense, compressed period of planning, logistics preparation and training.
Task Force Talon, comprised of around 200 Soldiers, is one-third the size of a traditional air defense Patriot battalion but the quality of personnel in the Task Force and their readiness to accept the mission is unequaled according to Lt. Col. Jefferey A. Slown, commander, Task Force Talon, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. He stated, "Regardless of the mission, the whole Task Force is resilient enough to accomplish any task given them. As I always tell visitors [to the TF], 'what we don't have in quantity, we make up for in quality and this interceptor operation was one example of that.'"
No matter the mission, the Task Force Soldiers maintain a fearless "can-do" attitude. However, as with other tasks, there would be no "can-do" without the support of joint partners and key enablers.
"The most positive aspect of this movement was the willingness of Air Force, Navy and Civilian contractors to aid us in completing the mission," said Master Sgt. Ronald Quinata, Task Force operations sergeant major.
Maj. Jonathan Stafford, Task Force executive officer echoed this sentiment, "This was truly a joint operation from beginning to end. The Task Force could not have accomplished such a logistically demanding task without the great support from the US Air Force's 36th Wing, the Missile Defense Agency, the Anniston Army Depot and the Army Aviation & Missile Command.
"All personnel had to work long and often overnight hours to execute the mission using heavy equipment to transport, download and upload numerous strategically important THAAD interceptors."
As with any operation the Army participates in, those most valuable to mission accomplishment are the Soldiers who execute tasks to meet the commander's intent. In this instance, Soldiers from Battery D, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment (THAAD) and Company D, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, who comprise the security force, displayed unimpeachable fortitude, an innovative spirit and dedicated professionalism throughout the conduct of the interceptor exchange.
Capt. Sheiloh Carlos, commander, D/2 (THAAD) recalled, "After each iteration of interceptor movement, Soldiers looked forward to the after action review. They utilized the assessment process to refine their techniques and procedures and they were able to observe the improvements that they had suggested during the next round of interceptor shipment. The ability to create change was a huge motivational booster for the Soldiers."
Capt. Carlos has some advice for those tasked to conduct a new or different operation.
"Seek out every source of knowledge, collect and organize information, and create an easily understandable method for accomplishing the mission. When information is scarce or unavailable, do not be afraid to innovate." He continued, "As long as the experimentation with new and untried methods makes sense and is conducted safely, progress can be made."
Task Force leaders captured numerous lessons learned during the operation that will help other units with preparing for missions in the future.
Carlos also noted that passing along lessons learned is important, "Share the knowledge gained after an operation with as many people that need to know as possible. Keeping knowledge, especially new knowledge, to oneself may allow an individual to be the 'go-to guy,' but it hurts the team in the end."