Co-located on the island of Guam, the University of Guam and Task Force Talon have a unique opportunity for professional development. TFT is assigned to Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo, Guam. TFT is comprised of Echo Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), staff and support elements.
The University of Guam is located in Mangilao, Guam. The university has an impressive Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) department, which commissions approximately 12- cadets to second lieutenants every year.
In the spring of 2018 a connection was established between the Professor of Military Science from the Guam Army ROTC, Lt. Col. Christopher Rivers and the Task Force Talon Commander, Lt. Col. Johannes Castro.
Echo Battery began to send personnel from their unit to teach the cadets at the University of Guam. Lieutenants from Echo Battery gave first hand advice on taking command of a platoon and interacting with soldiers. This is an especially unique opportunity given that new lieutenants in the battery could give first hand advice on taking command of a platoon and interacting with their soldiers to the cadet.
1st Lt. Wei Ye commented on his experience with the partnership of both units.
"It was a very different opportunity and I think both the students and ourselves benefited from it," said Ye. "Giving valuable advice from the perspective of a new platoon leader and getting the chance to improve our mentoring and communication skills at the same time."
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Joyce Borja was able to attend physical readiness training with TFT and Echo Battery. Borja is part of the staff at the university and looks to gain experience before heading to Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Borja commissioned as an Air Defense Artillery Officer and is in a prime location to learn branch specific skills. She now has a better understanding of the dynamics of a battery so she will be better prepared for her career in Air Defense Artillery.
The cornerstone of this relationship has been tours of the THAAD site given to ROTC cadets at the university. These tours give the students a glimpse of the mission of Echo Battery, the Soldiers that defend Guam, Security Forces and the equipment used at the THAAD site. They now have a better understanding about the high state of readiness that exists in a unit that is constantly prepared for any threat that may present itself. For the cadets, this experience adds context to their education.
In 2018, at the spring commissioning ceremony for the University of Guam, Capt. Jared Kuntz, the former commander of Echo Battery and Lt. Col. Castro, the commander of TFT, attended the ceremony to show their support for the commissioning second lieutenants. Also in attendance was Brig. Gen. Sean Gainey, then commander of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. In addition to their attendance at the ceremony, they administered a leader professional development sit-down with the cadets before the ceremony started.
As the commanders of their respective unit, Castro and Rivers gave their perspective of this unique partnership.
"This program provides real world leadership and helps prepare the students for BOLC; It is especially helpful for the students who are branching Air Defense Artillery, like 2nd Lt. Borja, but it is not just Air Defense, the students get a perspective from Task Force Wolf (Security Forces at the THAAD site) and maintenance, which are valuable parts of what we do," said Castro.
"The MS3 and MS4 cadets get to participate in dialogue at the university, giving them an opportunity to ask questions of Soldiers in positions they will be in very soon," stated Castro. "The MS4 cadets also get to partner up with lieutenants on site, and get a perspective from them on the ground, actually doing their job."
Rivers said the partnership gives cadets exposure to ADA capabilities, and what is expected of them as future leaders.
"It lets them understand what makes a second lieutenant successful, and gives them an experience of life on site, performing daily functions in a real unit," Rivers added. "For the future, the program will continue regardless of the leadership that may change."
"The program has been excellent so far; In the future we would like to have staff officers or maintenance personnel, the subject matter experts, come in to teach the MS4 cadets, to give them context," Rivers said.
Lt. Col. Rivers noted that the future of this program will definitely be secure for the foreseeable future and will continue to develop new leaders prepared for the Army of tomorrow.