BARRIGADA, Guam - National Guard chiefs of staff from seven states visited Guam this week as part of ongoing efforts to prioritize Guam in regional and national defense strategy.
The seven U.S. Army colonels, arriving from as far away as New Mexico and Colorado, spent three days tackling common issues, sharing best practices, and learning about the island’s cultural, historical and geopolitical uniqueness. Chiefs of staff from the Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and California National Guard also attended.
Col. David Santos, chief of joint staff for the Guam National Guard, invited his regional counterparts to strengthen relationships and understand some of the issues specific to Guam.
“With Guam being the only National Guard element this far west, it is important for us to sustain, build, and enhance our relationships with our regional partners to support each other,” said Santos. “You won’t understand the region until you put your foot on the ground and understand our culture, our people, and most importantly, our strategic location and the challenges we face.”
Col. Nathaniel Carper, chief of staff of the New Mexico National Guard, was among the visitors to the 30-by-10-mile island of approximately 160,000 U.S. citizens.
“It’s a phenomenal experience to understand,” said Carper. “We’ve heard a lot about the tyranny of distance during our visit here the last few days, and we’ve really come to appreciate that and understand the true expansiveness of the Pacific.”
In addition to working groups and meetings, the colonels visited with Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and military officials from Joint Region Marianas headquarters. After work, they visited cultural and historical sites and attended the Chamorro Village night market.
Brig. Gen. Mike Cruz, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, thanked the colonels during his opening remarks and conveyed a sense of urgency to prepare for the defense of Guam.
“World War II is a black-and-white war in our collective memory, with much of what remains being old photographs and videos. But for those of us on Guam like my grandmother, who was forced to watch while her brother and son were beheaded by an invading force, it is still very much in living color. It is red blood on white sand in front of blue ocean and sky. So thank you, chiefs, for taking the time to travel all this way. I hope you get a sense of that color while you are here.”