(GUNG) – Nine Airmen of the 254th Force Support Squadron (FSS) returned home late yesterday, setting in motion a wave of redeployments for the Guam Air National Guard this week.
Within the next few days, more than 100 members of the 254th Red Horse Squadron are also expected to return home.
Serving for several months under the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, the 254th FSS team members have been instrumental in providing morale, welfare and recreation support to thousands of the deployed U.S. Armed Forces members serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Our team played a role in supporting the larger mission to dismantle the deadly force of the Taliban, bringing stability to Afghanistan and shifting the military into more of an advisory role as we begin to withdraw our forces in America’s longest running war,” said Master Sgt. Jerry Damian, 254th FSS education and training manager and team leader during the deployment.
MWR services come in the form of bed down, feeding, mortuary affairs and other support necessary for the daily operations of the deployed sites.
Master Sgt. Virginia Carino, 254th food services superintendent, credits this as her fifth deployment since her Guard career began in November 1995.
“I was tasked with managing the dining facility as well as 10 alternate stations where U.S. Army Special Forces teams were embedded in the villages,” Carino said. “We ensured that these stations were fully equipped with daily rations and water supply.”
Though the days were grueling with 12-hour shifts, she says the deployment was also filled with achievements and personal accomplishments.
“The most rewarding experience was building trust and relationships with the local nationals. When we arrived, we had to make sure our military members were out there working with and teaching the local nationals new skills,” Carino said. “When it was time for us to head back home, the local nationals didn’t want us to leave.”
For Senior Airman Doreen Dela Cruz, quality assurance evaluator for the 254th FSS, reward came in being able to enhance the work environment for military members and the local nationals.
“Working together with our supervisor, we were able to bring in new dining facility equipment and uniforms for our local nationals, which they really appreciated,” Dela Cruz said. “We also had the chance to celebrate Liberation Day while we were there and to implement some of our island cuisine.”
The exemplary service that Guam Air National Guard members are contributing toward the mission is not going unnoticed. Master Sgt. Jerry Damian and Tech Sgt. Jorge Hernandez were both recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, a decoration awarded to military members for having distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.
The 254th FSS members were recognized several times over garnering multiple awards and recognitions while serving overseas.
“Regardless of the medals, our team’s service and sacrifice made a difference in Afghanistan that will last for years to come. This is our duty,” Damian said. “Like any airmen called to serve, our dedication to the mission could not have happened without the support of our leadership, the Airman and Family Readiness, the Family Readiness Group, and most importantly, each and every one of our families.”
The team members were met at the Won Pat Guam International Air Terminal by family members and by Maj. Gen. Benny Paulino, along with other leaders of GUANG and fellow airmen and soldiers.