Hawaii Guard's Crucial Role in Guam’s Typhoon Recovery Effort

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Linzmeier,
  • Hawaii Air National Guard

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Guardsmen from the 154th Communications Squadron provided critical support to the Guam National Guard’s Joint Task Force from May 27 - June 16 in response to a typhoon that struck the island.

Following Typhoon Mawar’s impact, Master Sgt. Neil Fujinaga, Staff Sgt. Robert Shikina and Senior Airman Katarina Kossen mobilized from their home unit in Hawaii, flew to the Guam Army National Guard Readiness Center to set up and maintain mobile communication systems.

Kossen, a radio frequency transmission systems specialist, said she was shocked when she first saw the storm’s aftermath. While this was the first time she was selected to serve overseas, with sightings of knocked-down powerlines, uprooted trees and debris scattered in all directions, Kossen’s arrival evoked a sense of nostalgia.

“Guam reminded me of home in a lot of ways,” said Kossen, “so I felt like I was there to help my brothers and sisters. It hurt to see this community’s infrastructure struggling and that helped fulfill a sense of purpose.”

Throughout the small team’s activation, their expertise centered around the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system. The mobile station provided essential data, voice, and radio communication to the Joint Operations Center. Operations personnel relied on the JISCC’s satellite network and antenna systems to help relay information to Guardsmen posted throughout the island.

Due to widespread power outages, the National Guard established traffic control points at major intersections and collection points for green waste and debris that was left behind.

To help streamline communication throughout the task force, the 154th CS Airmen also integrated a base station communication hub inside the JOC. This served as a consolidated stack of radios that expedited communication between the JOC and the dispatched disaster relief teams.

High-speed and commercial internet was also in high demand to make up for degraded network services caused by damage from the storm. Fujinaga, Kossen and Shikina were able to help mediate this issue by setting up a Starlink satellite connection, providing more efficient methods for service members to collaborate on the recovery mission.

Shikina, who specialized in network systems operations, said the days were long and filled with plenty of troubleshooting but a rewarding experience overall. He attributes this to the camaraderie and positive attitudes of his Guam counterparts.

“The people we worked with in Guam were wonderful,” said Shikina, “They had great hospitality, they were caring, made sure we ate well, even though they were the ones trying to recover. One of the guys lost his roof, but he was still cooking for us every day, which wasn’t even his job. I absolutely won’t forget their friendliness.”

In recognition of providing technical expertise to the JTF and supporting the people of Guam during a time of great need, Fujinaga, Shikina and Kossen were ceremoniously honored with plaques by the commander of the Guam Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. Christopher Faurot.