An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Guam’s Only Reserve Squadron Is Deeply Connected to the Community It Serves and Always Ready to Answer the Nation’s Call

  • Published
  • By Teodoro Rivera

In the vast expanse of the Pacific, where the horizon seems to stretch endlessly and nestled amidst the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean, lies the 44th Aerial Port Squadron, Air Force Reserve Command’s lone squadron on the island of Guam.

Operating under the 624th Regional Support Group, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, the 44th APS stands at the forefront of this strategic outpost. Tucked away on Andersen Air Force Base and a tenant of the 36th Wing, this diverse group of Citizen Airmen serves as a vital cog in the U.S. military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region, operating at the strategic forward edge of American power.

With their squadron motto, “Banidan I Isla, Minetgot Enteru I Tano,” resonating proudly in the Chamorro language as “Pride of the Island, Strength of the Land,” the 44th APS stands as a combat support force of about 180 people.

Notably, 90% of its members hail from Guam or neighboring islands within the strategically crucial Second Island Chain, extending from Japan to Micronesia. This squadron, deeply rooted in the Pacific, carries a profound cultural awareness that goes beyond geography.

“Our connection to the region transcends borders, infusing the unit with an unyielding sense of responsibility and tight-knit community spirit,” said Maj. Benjamin Guerrero, 44th APS commander.

This cultural bond, cultivated across the immense Pacific landscape, was illustrated by the cohesive strength displayed in response to the devastating Typhoon Mawar that struck Guam in May 2023, highlighting their military prowess and resilience stemming from a shared cultural heritage.

Typhoon Mawar, a Category 4 storm with wind speeds of more than 130 miles per hour, plunged the island into darkness, displaced thousands and unleashed widespread devastation. Critical infrastructure buckled, leaving everyone without electricity. About 80% of the population lost access to running water.

“Because of the devastation, the 36th Wing quickly sought volunteers to support recovery efforts,” Guerrero said. “Additionally, Joint Region Marianas – Task Force West was looking for volunteers as they stood up their operations to support humanitarian relief efforts across Guam.”

In response to the crisis, the 44th APS rapidly mobilized a group of volunteers, gathering a force of 50 to meet the urgent need. Their involvement became crucial in bolstering the recovery efforts of the 36th Wing and Joint Region Marianas – Task Force West. The squadron’s multifaceted initiatives were pivotal in delivering life-sustaining supplies to island residents and restoring critical infrastructure for the island and the Department of Defense.

“Airmen from the 44th APS, assigned to the 36th Contingency Response Group under the 36th Wing, delivered meals to displaced residents in shelters, coordinated logistics and distributed essential supplies to aid stations, and participated in base recovery efforts,” Guerrero said. “They also partnered with FEMA’s Rise Up program, rebuilding more than 150 roofs on homes devastated by the storm.”

Following the typhoon, three Airmen from the 44th APS were activated to assist Joint Region Marianas – Task Force West. They coordinated airlift mobility for the U.S. Army Pacific and the Defense Support of Civilian Authorities. Working in collaboration with federal agencies like FEMA, their primary mission was to facilitate the delivery of essential generators crucial for restoring the water supply to the island’s residents. In addition, they played a significant role in distributing Meals Ready to Eat to displaced residents, reaching across 19 villages on the island.

“Typhoon Mawar also damaged the 734th Air Mobility Squadron’s passenger terminal, which would prove critical for evacuating dependents and receiving recovery personnel,” Guerrero said. “With the terminal inoperable, we converted our own facility into a continuity of operations site.”

Within 24 hours after the all-clear, the 734th AMS started processing passengers and resumed operations, which was crucial in speeding up the recovery of Andersen AFB.

Airmen from the squadron earned seven Army Achievement Medals and two Navy Achievement Medals due to their exceptional leadership in successfully executing the mission.

Throughout the year, the 44th APS supports the 36th Wing at Andersen AFB and, by extension, Pacific Air Forces. Reservists from the 44th APS are heavily involved in Operation Christmas Drop, Operation Cope North, Valiant Shield and other Pacific Air Forces and United States Indo-Pacific Command operations.

“The squadron has consistently supported air mobility movements for exercises and contingencies,” Guerrero said. “From hub-and-spoke exercises to supporting president of the United States travel and humanitarian missions like the Maui wildfires, the 44th APS ensures the smooth flow of personnel and cargo throughout the vast Pacific theater. Our people have served as subject matter expert exchange trainers with regional allies and important security partners, including the Philippines, Palau, Pohnpei and Papua New Guinea. They have provided logistics support for Bomber Task Force and Dynamic Force Employment operations like Iron Thunder and Iron Riptide, remaining a vital element of PACAF’s power projection capabilities.”

In support of the “set the theater” logistics requirement for Agile Combat Employment, one of the PACAF commander’s top priorities, 44th APS members have integrated with the 554th Red Horse Squadron and constructed K-Span buildings, supporting PACAF’s ACE Project Management Office to build the resiliency needed to stage War Reserve Material.

The 44th APS also recently augmented the 36th CRG by supporting various missions across the Pacific Area of Responsibility.

“We truly have a Total Force team … active duty, Guard and Reserve all working as one,” said Col. Richard McElhaney, 36th CRG commander. “Without the man-day assistance from the 254th Air Base Group and the 624th RSG, particularly the 44th APS, we could not execute our part of the PACAF strategy and ACE theater response requirements. These incredible Guard and Reserve Airmen are critical to our ability to execute our mission and are no longer manning assets. They are part of our family.”

The 44th APS’s diverse contributions paint a clear picture: they are more than cargo handlers and logistics specialists. They are Citizen Airmen who are deeply connected to the community they serve, ready to answer the nation’s call at a moment’s notice. They are a patriotic, mission-ready force that is up to the task when called to support and augment their active-duty counterparts.

“The focus of the 44th APS is to execute the AFRC commander’s task order by preparing combat-ready Airmen who can integrate, lead and deploy when called upon, thus ensuring the United States’ ability to project power, respond to emergencies and forge strong partnerships across the vital Indo-Pacific region and the globe,” Guerrero said.

(Rivera is assigned to the 624th Regional Support Group public affairs office.)