Quezon’s enlistment kickstarts effort to establish CNMI National Guard

Maj. Juan King enlists PFC Reyel Quezon into the Guam Army National Guard June 8 at American Memorial Park in Saipan.

Saipan resident Reyel Quezon’s enlistment into the Guam National Guard was the latest in the organization’s effort to help make the case for the establishment of a CNMI National Guard.

Private First Class Quezon’s June 8 enlistment at the American Memorial Park was the Guam National Guard’s very first enlistment in Saipan, according to spokesman Captain Mark Scott.

A national guard in Saipan will further build the capacity the Mariana Islands needs, Mr. Scott said. Reestablishing recruiting operations in the CNMI, he said, is a step in this direction.

“I join the Guam Army National Guard because I want to serve my country and still be able to live at home,” Mr. Quezon said. “It will enable me to go to different regions of the world without having to be an active-duty soldier. It will allow me to learn new skills I may use as a civilian. I’m now pursuing a bachelor’s degree, and joining the army national guard will significantly help with tuition costs.”

Major Juan King conducted the enlistment.

“The NMI has been asking for a National Guard for some time now – maybe 20 years,” Mr. Scott said. “When the Guam National Guard went to help with Supertyphoon Yutu recovery in 2018, and especially now after we’ve seen what the Guard can bring to pandemic response, there is a renewed interest by the NMI in having a National Guard. We support the NMI’s endeavor because they are our island neighbors and family. We know that the National Guard brings opportunities not just for homeland defense, humanitarian assistance, and regional security, but for economic and educational opportunities for the people as well.”

Mr. Scott said the Torres administration has expressed interest in establishing a national guard in Saipan. “There is interest,” he said of CNMI residents wanting to join the guard. “We have members in the Guam National Guard who travel from the NMI on drill weekends.”

Congressman Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan in 2015 introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish a guard unit for the Commonwealth.

“A National Guard for the Northern Marianas is consistent with America’s commitment to enhancing security and stability in the Asia-Pacific,” Mr. Sablan said. “A National Guard unit is critical, too, for responding quickly and effectively to emergencies within the commonwealth, including natural disasters.”

His legislation followed a study mandated by the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which concluded the establishment of a CNMI National Guard was feasible, but would require changes to federal law, according to the congressman’s website.

“This bill is the next important step in the process of establishing our own National Guard that is on par with the existing units of other states and territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Sablan said.

“The Northern Marianas government has already taken the first important step, which is enacting a local law to organize a militia for the commonwealth.”

That law, Public Law 13-32, the Northern Mariana Islands National Guard Act, was enacted in 2002.

Members of the National Guard can be called to active service by the governor of their state or territory to respond to disaster and civil disorder. They can also be called to federal active duty by the President of the United States to enforce laws, defend against invasion or insurrection, or provide support for military operations. National Guardsmen additionally participate in regular training and other activities under state control, but with federal pay and benefits.

“Residents of the Northern Marianas currently join the Guam National Guard, so clearly there is interest,” Sablan said.

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