News: Guam Guardsmen redeploy at Camp Shelby
Story by Spc. Karen Sampson
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- National Guard soldiers from Guam are going home.
Guam National Guardsmen returning from a security force mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom recently completed their demobilization process with assistance from First Army Division East's 177th Armored Brigade and Medical Task Force Shelby.
"The 177th AR BDE and Medical Task Force Shelby made the demobilization process seamless," praised Capt. Kristin Y. Ramos, of Guam's Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, one of the demobilizing units.
This final process of sustaining a soldier's health and welfare is critical to complete a successful mission, said Ramos, the first female to command in the Guam National Guard. Ramos took command of the unit while it was deployed in Afghanistan.
"Our demobilization team coordinated with the 1 Bn., 294th Inf Reg., three months before the battalion's scheduled return," said Lt. Col. Kevin "Buzz" Ingram, commander of 1st Battalion, 346th ADA. "Conducting frequent in-process reviews determines the battalion's specific needs for each of their Soldiers."
Ingram said his team gathers as much detailed information in advance concerning the battalion's redeployment time line, approximate troop numbers, equipment volume, and any issues Soldiers experienced while deployed. This allows his team to prepare a customized demobilization plan.
"Knowledge prior to their return helps determine the volume of personnel on-ground providing us the ability to arrange appointments during a time where there might be limited resources available through the holidays," said Ingram.
"The 177th AR Bde aid in preplanning the process is exceptional," said Ramos. "They assisted our support staff considerably and, without hesitation, showed sincere care to the individual soldier."
Approximately 3,000 soldiers, including the Guam National Guardsmen, arrived at Camp Shelby during the holiday season for redeployment, he said.
"We call it the 'surge period,' said Ingram. "The high volume of Soldiers returning is not uncommon during this time of year, and our staff is well-experienced in accommodating this."
The 177th AR Bde's demobilization plan is based on an individually focused, 14-day template customized for soldiers to complete the process thoroughly without compromise to individual care, said Ingram.
"Upon our arrival, it was evident a lot of consideration was put into the battle rhythm of the demobilization process," said Ramos. "We had a lot of our Soldiers complete the process sooner than expected."
This is not the first time the 177th soldiers met the Guam troops. The 177th AR Bde also assisted Task Force Guam during their mobilization training.
"During our initial mobilization through Camp Shelby, what challenged our personnel was organizing a schedule for our Soldiers to complete all training and medical requirements for the deployment in a very short time frame," said Command Sgt. Maj. Manuel (Manny) B. Blas, battalion operations sergeant major, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment.
"Even with arduous time constraints for our departure, the staff of 177th AR Bde and Camp Shelby gave 100 percent of their time, efforts, and energy, assisting our battalion with every detail of our preparation," said Blas. "We were trained extremely well and departed with confidence in being mission-ready."
Familiar staff and reliable professionalism is an asset of the 177th AR Bde, said Blas.
"It is rewarding to finish the security mission, be back on U.S. soil, and we look forward to seeing our families, but we are making sure our transitioning Soldier's welfare is cared for," said Blas. "We are thankful for the efforts and assistance of 177th AR Bde because there is no option of rushing the return process."
Aside from the guidance through the many requirements necessary to a smooth transition, the 177th AR Bde's priorities also remained on the Soldiers' morale and welfare.
During the Christmas holidays, approximately 280 Guam Guardsmen stayed at Camp Shelby, unable to celebrate with their families. Staff from the 1-346th ADA and the demobilization operations team showed their support by celebrating Christmas with Task Force Guam, said Ingram.
"With the help of Camp Shelby food services, we arranged Christmas brunch and Christmas dinner," said Ingram. "We also set a large-screen TV up in the theater to watch some of the football games."
The best of the Christmas day plans offered a cultural celebration with Task Force Guam arranging a luau, complete with venison stew and an in-ground whole pig roasted on banana leaves, said Ingram.
"We worked with Camp Shelby to acquire a venue for ground roasting, obtained a whole pig that was donated, a deer shot and donated by a 177th AR Bde Soldier and another provided banana leaves from a tree at their house," said Ingram. "The Soldiers started at midnight Christmas day digging the hole and roasted the venison and whole pig until noon."
After the ritual of cooking all day, they shared an incredible feast, said Ingram.
"The celebration was an amazing experience, and a gesture that expressed a very unique, true care for the soldiers cultural expression and morale," said Ingram. "The efforts by the soldiers in the demobilization section showed a true example of selfless service, going above-and-beyond duty to create a celebration for the Guam soldiers who couldn't be home."