Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the director of the Air National Guard, had heaps of praise for Guam residents' military service, but also noted the involvement of some in a nationwide recruitment fraud.
Rice arrived Tuesday at Andersen Air Force Base.
The trip is a chance to "really see what Guam is,” Rice said, adding he brought about 25 members of his leadership team on the trip.
With Guam's small population – about 160,000 during the last census – Rice noted the number of island residents who signed up for military service is beyond high.
"I think it’s more than just high, it’s over the top, it’s an inspiration to all of us," Rice said. "As Americans, if you really want to see where the muscle of what the word patriotism means, go no other place than Guam to say, ‘Wow this is real patriotism at its core, at its heart.'"
While Rice recognized Guam service members, he also addressed the now-defunct Guard Recruitment Assistance Program, or G-RAP.
A number of Guam Guard members faced charges, and some have been sentenced, as part of a nationwide fraud involving bonuses tied to recruitment.
“It was relatively a success from several years ago, to increase the size of the force," he said, adding the program was meant to empower the 450,000 Army and Air National Guard members to be the eyes and ears in recruiting.
The program's checks and balances "fell short," he said.
"We didn’t do a very good job of managing that program," and subsequently some abused the program, he said.
"Unfortunately, Guam is a piece of that. We found members of the Guam National Guard that abused the program and we’ve brought them to law enforcement agencies, and we’re working on closing those cases out,” said Rice. “We are heading in the right direction to get management practices to be firm and tight.”
Rice said nationwide, he's proposing to grow the Air National Guard 5 to 10 percent – even 15 percent in some areas and for some capabilities.
'Great growth potential'
"Guam should be a piece of that growth as well, particularly when you look at these things like cyber and cyberwarfare. There is great growth potential across our whole Department of Defense, and in particular the Air National Guard, and specifically here at Guam, in cyber.”
According to Maj. Josephine M.P. Blas, public affairs officer for the Guam National Guard, the cyberwarfare section of the Guam Air Guard has only nine people assigned to the wing.
“Gen. Rice hopes to make the wing more robust,” Blas said.
"We have to look at Guam as a very strategic location in the world, and what can we do to adapt the Air National Guard, specifically for what theater needs in this area,” Rice said.
Rice said he's also impressed with the caliber of military personnel from Guam.
“Now for the real war-fighting part of what we do, the professionalism, the dedication, the capability that comes out of Guam is pretty impressive and it’s not just the Guard. It’s the Navy, it’s the Air Force, it’s the Marines and the Army. You can see all facets of the Department of Defense with great encouragement and results – we see that here.”
Rice was received by Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Cox, base commander 36th Wing, based at Andersen.
Brig. Gen. Johnny S. Lizama of the Guam Air National Guard sat beside Rice during a press conference with local media after meeting with Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo yesterday morning and meeting Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio later in the afternoon.
Rice is responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, plans and programs affecting more than 105,500 Guard members and civilians in more than 90 wings and 175 geographically separated units. The units are spread across 213 locations throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.