Sunday, September 23, 2001


A soldier assigned to the 368th Military Police Company
from Guam qualified on the 9 mm pistol during Annual
Training in August at Schofield Barracks.

Guam reservists
ready if call comes

Of the 181 personnel in the
Guam police unit, 3 dozen
served in Desert Storm

Remember 9-11-01


By Gregg K. Kakesako

If the call comes, Army reservists on Guam, who were among the few Pacific area citizen soldiers who took part in the last massive recall for Desert Storm a decade ago, say they are ready.

"It's not that I want to get deployed, and it's not that I want to go to war, but because I believe it's an obligation," said Master Sgt. Roberto Laanan, a military policeman.

"When I look at the American flag, I get goose bumps. I feel an obligation. I feel that I am part of that liberty movement," said Laanan, who has been a member of the Army Reserve for more than 20 years. Fifteen of those years in uniform, he has been a member of the Army Reserve's 368th Military Police Company.

The White House has said that it intends to mobilize 35,500 reservists following the suicide hijacking and bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 -- the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history. Both National Guard and Army Reserve officials here say they haven't been told what units or what type of military specialists will be needed.

Because the United States has not had a draft since 1973, everyone is a volunteer. Many belong to the country's reserve force.

Brig. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, commander of the 9th Regional
Support Command, spoke in August to members of the
368th Military Police Company from Guam during a
break in their Annual Training at Schofield Barracks.

Under the mobilization order signed by Bush, the Army expected to call as many as 10,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard to active duty. That calculation was based on two primary missions for the Reserve: assisting in the recovery efforts in New York and at the Pentagon, and "homeland defense," which means using military police to beef up base security.

Bush authorized as many as 50,000 guardsmen and reservists on Sept. 14. The Pentagon said it will initially need up to 35,500 of those troops: 13,000 for the Air Force, 10,000 for the Army, 7,500 for the Marine Corps, 3,000 for the Navy and 2,000 for the Coast Guard.

The President declared a state of national emergency Sept. 14 after terrorists hijacked four American commercial airliners. They crashed two airliners into New York's World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. A fourth crashed in a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. More than 6,000 people are feared dead in the assaults.

Army officials are working now to decide which of the Reserves' 207,000 soldiers will be called to duty, when and where. Army Reserve officials say once the immediate search and rescue support needs are filled in New York, the next mission for the Reserves under Bush's order is homeland defense.

Other Reserve specialists who are likely to be called to duty for homeland defense include engineers, military intelligence, civil affairs and linguists, who will assist the FBI with its interviews of suspects who may have helped or given shelter to the hijackers. The final role for the Army Reserve will be the reaction phase, which President Bush and senior military planners are now attempting to define.

A decade ago in the Pacific, the 368th was the only major reserve unit mobilized during Desert Storm -- the last call-up of reservists and National Guard members. In January 1991, 263,300 were mobilized by George W. Bush's father for the Gulf War.

During the Gulf War, 135,000 Army Reservists were called to duty. Among those specialties in highest demand were port operations personnel, supply and maintenance specialists, and medical workers.

Most of the military forces from the Pacific were provided by the Marines, which deployed nearly 7,500 Marines, helicopters and F-18 fighter squadrons from Kaneohe. Since then the F-18 Hornet jet fighter squadrons have been relocated from Kaneohe Bay.

Another 500 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and Pacific Army reservists, 50 Hickam Air Force Base security police officers and five Pearl Harbor-based ships were sent to the Persian Gulf.

Of the 181 men and women who now make up the Guam military police unit, Laanan estimates three dozen are Gulf War veterans who have remained in the unit.

Sgt. 1st Class Dante Serneo, 41, a contract specialist with the Navy Public Works Center on Guam, said when his unit, which was activated to augment another Guam reserve unit -- the National Guard's 731st Prisoner of War Company -- arrived in Saudi Arabia, everyone was apprehensive. "Basically, we didn't know what to expect. It was clear that Iraq was capable of using chemical weapons, and that was our greatest fear."

Laanan, 45, said the job of the Guam reservists at the prisoner of war compound at Hafar Al-batin, located 20 miles from the front, was to process captured Iraqi soldiers.

Laanan, whose eldest daughter, Tricia Adams, now lives in Kaneohe with her husband, also an Army reservist, recalled that during the Gulf War, three of his nephews served with him.

"There were so many others who were just as young -- 18- or 19-year-olds just out of training," said Laanan. "I ended being their 'Uncle Bob.' I made sure I took care of them. All of their lives were so abruptly changed."

Today, as a senior noncommissioned officer in his unit, Laanan now sees his responsibility primarily as preparing the younger soldiers. "My primary function is to train these young guys to make sure they are safe. ... My bottom line is to bring them back."

As he watched the twin towers of the New York Trade Center topple on the news with his two children, Serneo's 11-year-old son asked him: "Dad, are we going to war? What's going to happen?"

"My boy, who's very close to me, told me, 'Dad, I don't want you to go.' Then he said, 'but I guess someone has to pay for that.'"

Laanan also is worried about his children, especially his 21-year-old son, Roberto Jerome, also a member of the reserves as an Army medic. "His words to me was, 'Dad, are you going to get the call?'"

Laanan said that his son also realizes that the Gulf War a decade ago may have been "Dad's war," and the next one will be his. "He has the notion that it's his time and that he may be called to serve."

Gregg K. Kakesako can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin