YIGO, Guam -- Guam National Guard members make vital contributions to the Joint Force team executing the nation's National Defense Strategy, the National Guard's most senior general told Soldiers and Airmen during a recent visit.
"Guam is strategically important to our national defense," Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said. "As we discuss in the National Defense Strategy, we're in a time of increasing great power competition. Our adversaries are emboldened to threaten our national security and American prosperity.
"Guam National Guard members should be proud of the critically important contributions you make every day," he added.
The Guard's role in the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron is an example: The 506th EARS depends on Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotankers to work alongside active duty and Reserve aircraft to provide the aerial refueling and airlift that supports critical U.S. Indo-Pacific Command missions.
The 506th EARS enables INDOPACOM's continuous bomber presence and theater security packages.
A U.S. territory since the nation recaptured it from Japan in 1944, Guam is also a target, and Lengyel visited with Guam National Guard members who are helping secure key assets for the island's defense.
He also stopped by the Guam Guard's 254th RED HORSE Squadron. RED HORSE is an acronym for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.
Lengyel's stop on Guam included meetings with the governor and Guam National Guard senior leaders as well as troop visits.
"Meeting with Guard members, learning from them, and sharing their story is the best part of my job," Lengyel said. "It's an honor to serve alongside the extraordinary men and women who wear our nation's uniforms."
RED HORSE squadrons provide the Air Force with a highly mobile civil engineering response force to support contingency and special operations worldwide. They are self-sufficient, mobile squadrons capable of rapid response and independent operations in remote, high-threat environments worldwide.
During wars, these Airmen primarily perform heavy damage repairs required for recovery of critical Air Force facilities and utility systems, and aircraft launch and recovery.
They also provide engineer support for the bed down of weapon systems required to initiate and sustain operations in an austere, bare-base environment, including remote hostile locations.
In peacetime, RED HORSE Airmen train for contingency and wartime operations. They regularly participate in major command exercises, military operations other than war, and humanitarian programs.
They also perform training projects that assist base construction efforts while simultaneously honing wartime skills.
Guam's RED HORSE Squadron is an associate unit with the Air Force's 554th RED HORSE Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base.
Since the Guam National Guard was established in 1981, members have responded to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counterdrug efforts, and reconstruction missions. Guam National Guard members deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002, 2008 and 2013, and they are currently supporting the Multinational Force and Observers on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Relatively near the International Date Line, Guam prides itself on being "where America's day begins," and it falls under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's area of responsibility.
One of six geographic unified combatant commands, INDOPACOM encompasses about one-half Earth's surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole.