By SGT. EDWARD SIGUENZA
1-294th Infantry Regiment
BARRIGADA, Guam — Close to two dozen of Task Force Guam’s senior enlisted Soldiers — amounting to nearly 200 years of collective military service — united Sept. 16-18 to plan and coordinate upcoming events for 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard.
Sergeants major, first sergeants, master sergeants and selected sergeants first class hosted a meeting of minds to prioritize the near and distant future for their nearly 800-member battalion. They discussed issues pertaining to their current Operation Enduring Freedom mission as well as the redeployment, reintegration and unit reset process scheduled for later this year, and other matters — such as the 2014 Annual Training — that’ll affect the battalion once it returns home.
“This conference gives us a way forward to support the battalion commander’s intent,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Hennegan, Task Force Guam’s command sergeant major. “This gives us an opportunity to gather information, analyze it and ensure the information gets down to the lowest level of leadership.”
All of Task Force Guam’s company first sergeants met for the first time since arriving in Afghanistan. It has been more than a year since they last gathered into one room, said Sgt. Maj. Manny Blas, operations sergeant major. The first sergeants brought some of their platoon sergeants and all engaged in positive discussions, Blas said.
“We came together to express the concerns of the battalion,” Blas explained. “We had to come up with ways forward to improve and enhance the battalion’s outcome.”
More than 500 are currently deployed and occupy all six ISAF Regional Commands throughout Afghanistan. More than 200 battalion Soldiers remain on Guam. Personnel issues, such as reorganization and manning the battalion, were the hot topics, Hennegan explained.
Task Force Guam’s seven companies will be required to reorganize upon their return; After the reorganization, the battalion should return to its original configuration with six units returning to pre-deployment strength, so placing Soldiers into proper units will be discussed continuously.
“This is one of our biggest challenges of the deployment — resetting the battalion upon our return home,” Hennegan said. “What we discussed will be a recommendation to leaders within the Guam Army National Guard Headquarters. What we plan will be taken into consideration by our leaders when they meet.
The battalion commander and leader of Task Force Guam, Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, commended the senior noncommissioned officers for stepping forward to set the right conditions for the battalion’s future. Tougher also sought their help, acknowledging a shortage of battalion officers. Tougher emphasized identifying and encouraging enlisted Soldiers who may be qualified and interested in a path that could result in their commission as officers within the 1-294th.
Hennegan supported Tougher’s effort.
“Junior enlistees are an area of interest because they are our future leaders,” Hennegan said.
The Soldiers discussed preparations for Task Force Guam’s replacements — 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division — who are slated to arrive in December.
“We will not have an accountability problem, because all of the NCOs will be fully engaged,” Hennegan said.
The conference demonstrates unity within the battalion, Blas explained.
“It’s a collective effort of all the senior NCOs to come together to form one foundation,” Blas added.
The conference precedes the commander’s summit slated for late September. Like the senior enlistees, the battalion’s key officer leaders will unite to give their input for the battalion’s future needs and concerns.