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NEWS | June 1, 2010

Guam Air Guardsmen show island pride during deployment

By Capt. Cathleen Snow 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA - If you want world-class service with a smile there's no better place to go than to a tropical island, where you can be treated like royalty.

Deployed Airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing here in Southwest Asia don't have to go anywhere to get this five-star hospitality since nine Air National Guard members showed up with their island-style service.

They are part of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron deployed from the Guam Air National Guard's 254th Force Support Squadron at Anderson Air Base, Guam - an island paradise nestled in the Western Pacific - one of five U.S. territories.

Its people, known as Chamorros, have a long history of hosting tourists which is one of their mainstays along with the military presence there.

The Island Airmen are serving up 30-mile wide smiles, the length of the Island where they hail from, and sharing their island ways with the 1,900 Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors who are deployed here far away from home.

They even partnered with fellow Guardsmen from Hawaii also deployed here to put on a luau for their fellow servicemembers.

"Whether deployed or on vacation, we try to pass on our island pride and educate those who don't know much about our island," said Tech. Sgt. Cynthia Fejaran, who is also known as their "deployed mom."

The rest of the team includes: Master Sgt. Richard Rivera, Oasis dining facility night shift manager; Tech. Sgt. Jorge Hernandez, Oasis dining facility assistant day shift manager; Tech. Sgt. Leira Preuc, Community Access Center dayshift supervisor; Tech. Sgt. Patrick Toves; Roy's dayshift leader; Staff Sgt. Leo Diaz, Thirsty Camel recreation area assistant manager; Staff Sgt. Sherri Toves (a distant relation to Patrick), Oasis dining facility night shift manager; Airman 1st Class Brian Howard, fitness specialist; and Airman 1st Class Doreen Dela Cruz, Oasis dining facility quality assurance evaluator.

Deployments for this team have been as steady as the rain during Guam's wet season. They count 14 among them since 2005. That is why they say they stay close like family and help each other out when they can.

"Through good or bad times, we try to be here for one another," said Fejaran, who said they will put aside food for one another just as you would for one of your own family members. "Along with a lot of clowning, there's a lot of love."

While they take care of each other they also follow the Chamorro aka: Guamanian word - "taotaomonas," which means "people first" in their native tongue. It's always been their way they said. "We try to bring up spirit de corps for everyone," said Hernandez.

"If your morale is low and you are missing home, have a homemade desert," said Fejaran, who loves to bake as a form of relaxation. She won't take credit for the idea of dipping the cookies in chocolate which have become very popular at the dining facility, but she has made desserts for special occasions - like her strawberry shortcake and mudpie for the Medal of Honor Dining In -and her first ice cream cake, which she whipped up as a birthday surprise.

Another one of their island trademarks is their deep respect for people. In addition to everyone they serve, they said they also enjoy the third-country nationals, who work alongside them in the dining facility because not only are they hardworking but they are skilled food servers as seen by their detailed fruit carvings.

Showing their respect through gestures is common for the Island Airmen as Dela Cruz demonstrated a bow of respect and then showed a graceful respect gesture by touching her hand to her nose.

They said being from the largest Micronesian Island, others tend to think their lifestyle reflects that of stereotypical island life but when they are not serving with the military as National Guardsmen, they have a variety of civilian jobs around the island.

From business owner to student to probation officer to radiology manager, their citizenry crosses into various fields.

As the deployments keep coming so will the "good food, warm smiles and good music," like the island life, said Dela Cruz, who is on her first deployment with the group. Their next deployment is slated for Afghanistan next year.