ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper visited service members and conducted a bilateral engagement with the Japanese Defense Minister Kono Taro here Aug. 29.
The visit included an information brief by Capt. Katrina Muchmore, Echo Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment commander, and subject-matter experts on the unit’s ability to maintain and operate the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system.
“The primary purpose of the THAAD system is to defend against missile attacks,” said Muchmore. “The system consists of launchers, interceptors, fire control and communications equipment, and the AN/TPY-2 radar with components.”
While most 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade units are located throughout Japan, E/3 ADA, Task Force Talon, is the only one located in Guam, strategically situated to create an umbrella of air and missile defense and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
“It’s awe-inspiring to meet Dr. Esper, tell him more about our unique mission, and how we operate,” said Sgt. Rogelio J. Argeta, launcher section chief, E/3 ADA. “We work closely with joint partners to protect the island of Guam, the United States, and the Pacific region.”
Missile defense is a priority for the Pentagon because Guam is close enough to China that it can be barraged by advanced ballistic missiles.
“This includes the addition of air and missile defense capabilities, advanced intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance systems, and our ongoing bomber task force missions that prepare us to defend the Indo-Pacific at a moment's notice,” Esper said in virtual remarks to the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
During his visit, Esper hosted Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japan Alliance and discuss ways to deepen and expand bilateral defense cooperation.
Secretary Esper and Minister Kono agreed to continue efforts to support interoperability and to enhance Alliance capabilities, particularly for integrated air and missile defense and for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions. They also agreed on the importance of secure networks and of strengthening information security to protect advanced defense technologies, according to a Department of Defense release.
“When a missile is being launched by an enemy, Tactical Operations Centers and the Ground-based Radar will detect the approaching missile threat, analyze the target object data and the predicted intercept point within a very short time frame,” said Spc. Kevin Thinnes, Patriot fire control enhanced operator, E/3 ADA. “Then the data is sent to the missile prior to launch.”
The importance of E/3 ADA’s mission on Guam has led to an enduring relationship with the local citizens.
“Since 2019, the Guam Army National Guard activates a unit annually to provide security forces for Site Armadillo,” said Maj. Bryan Z. Lipe, Task Force Talon officer in charge. “Security Force 3, Task Force Guatdia, assumed the third consecutive rotation of security forces to our air defense capabilities on Guam Aug. 5.”
Esper’s visit to E/3 ADA reflects the strategic importance in Pacific defense posture which would play an outsize role in any future conflict with China.