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Whitehead: “Guardsmen in the Pacific Crucial to Homeland Defense”

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena,
  • National Guard Bureau

HONOLULU – The National Guard’s senior enlisted leader visited with Hawaii National Guardsmen and command teams to observe operations in the Pacific Mar. 6-8.

During the visit, Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, the SEA to the chief National Guard Bureau, toured Hawaii Guard facilities on Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam and Wheeler Army Airfield, met with Guardsmen, and heard about recent mission successes. 

“It’s always a great day when I can step into a state or territory and visit with outstanding Soldiers and Airmen,” Whitehead said. “The Hawaii National Guard’s position in the Pacific and its global reach are vital to our nation’s defense. I am so impressed.” 

While visiting Hickam, key leaders assigned to the 154th Wing briefed Whitehead on their mission and vital role in supporting the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s priorities and the nation’s strategic objectives. The 154th is the largest Hawaii Air Guard organization and the largest, most complex, and geographically separated wing in the Air National Guard.

“One of the strategic priorities of the Hawaii Air National Guard is to modernize by ensuring we remain ready, reliable and relevant in all of its mission sets,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Zandra Fox, the Hawaii National Guard’s command senior enlisted leader. “Not only does the 154th Wing maximize capability, but we are also thinking of innovative ways to meet the demands of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.” 

U.S. INDOPACOM, headquartered in Hawaii, is one of six geographic combatant commands within the DoD, encompassing about one-half the 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. INDOPACOM protects and defends, in concert with other U.S. government agencies, the territory of the United States, its people, and its interests.

Whitehead talked to leaders and service members about the Chief of the National Guard Bureau’s priorities and stressed the importance of readiness, partnerships, and resilience within the Guard community. 

“We all train,” Whitehead said. “We do what we’re supposed to do, whether here in the state or downrange - wherever we get the call to go. But there is something about when we get that call, we find out what ‘always ready, always there’ really means.” 

“Some of us are built for training, and others are built for execution,” he continued. “When we find out that we can do both, we find out what our Soldiers and Airmen are made of. I am proud to see the Guardsmen of the Hawaii National Guard can do both.”

During his time on the island of Oahu, Whitehead also visited Hawaii Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 189th General Support Aviation Battalion stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield. 

There, Guardsmen briefed Whitehead on a recent mission where they supported the governor’s declaration to support their community. Due to a recent incident, the Hawaii Life Flight was grounded for safety reasons. The Governor then activated the Army National Guard to provide medical transport services across the islands, making them the only medical transport company on the island. Consequently, when a single plane crashed, the Guard was ready to respond. 

“We were on our way to our company Christmas party when we got the call,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hau Okada, the training officer for Detachment 1, G Company, 3-126 Aviation Regiment said. “Within hours, we were ready to respond. This is what we train to do, and it’s good to know that the state of Hawaii, our governor, and our leadership had faith in us to carry out this type of mission for the first time ever.”

During that period, Detachment 1, G Company, 1st of the 189th Aviation Regiment and Det. 1, G Co., 3-126th Aviation Regiment performed a total of 11 flights supporting the citizens of Hawaii. Patients were evacuated from across the islands from Kona to Kauai to a higher level of care. It was the first time the medevac flew over water using night vision capabilities with civilians on board.

“I am so proud to be a Guardsman,” said Hawaii Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Tyrone L. Redding, command senior enlisted for the 103rd Troop Command. “I can do my federal mission, but I can also help my community. We get a chance to save lives, rescue people, and the community sees that, so I am very proud to be a Hawaii National Guardsman.” 

As part of every visit, Whitehead uses his time with soldiers and airmen to express gratitude for their hard work and dedication to the National Guard community. 

Women’s history is observed and celebrated throughout March. Whitehead spoke with many women currently serving in the Hawaii National Guard and let them know how important they are to the military. 

Coincidentally, for the first time in Hawaii Guard history, there are three female senior enlisted leaders: CMSgt. Carol Orr, the command chief of Headquarters, 154th Wing; CMSgt. Mey Martin, Hawaii Air Guard command chief; and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Zandra Fox, the Hawaii National Guard’s command senior enlisted leader.

“SEA Whitehead visiting the Hawaii National Guard is always a pleasure,” said Fox. “These Airmen and Soldiers love to see him, and he is very engaged in what is happening in both Army and Air Guard components. Because he is recognizing our diversity and Women’s History Month, we really appreciate his support.”