Subscribe

HAGATNA, Guam — Military leaders, Guam elected officials and local advocacy groups should prepare a strategy to bolster care and services for children and families as the island prepares for an influx of 8,000 U.S. Marines in coming years, according to a group of local women who have begun meeting about the issue.

They call themselves and are becoming known in Guam as the “women’s group” — community leaders, elected officials and military advocates who want to ensure that as the military grows here, so do services that help families and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The planned move is to bring an estimated 9,000 family members, thousands more workers and at least $10 billion in military investment beginning in 2008.

But before last week’s meeting began, Guam Sen. Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, asked, “Why is everyone only looking at the economic benefits?”

She and Guam Sen. Joanne Brown, R-Yona, said they want to ensure agencies such as Guam’s Child Protective Services, its shelters and clinics, schools and victim advocacy groups are just as prepared for the new residents as are the departments dealing with roads, power and water.

This week, they invited Navy Fleet & Family Support Center counselors and Capt. Janice Wynn, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas chief of staff, to discuss child and family services the military already offers and what they expect as they plan for a military buildup here.

Those explanations quickly evolved into an exchange of what services are available both outside and inside military bases here, who uses those services and where information could be shared about families needing help.

Among the questions asked: What are Guam’s requirements for reporting at local rape crisis centers? Does the Navy automatically report suspected child abuse to Guam’s Child Protective Services department?

Military and community women also talked openly of concerns, true and exaggerated, about the incoming Marines.

“Older women here, when they think about Marines, they think about young men, not families,” said Lou Leonguerrero, Bank of Guam chief executive officer. “My mom mentioned that to me. … What is the military doing about education? We want them to come out to the community.”

“This is something that is a concern for DOD as well,” Wynn said during the two-hour meeting. She explained the quarterly training all servicemembers receive about sexual assault and new, more private, reporting policies for rape victims. “The big piece is prevention.”

Still, more exchanges are needed to better understand how the military and Guam communities can work together, women at Wednesday’s meeting agreed. Later this summer, Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, deputy commander of Pacific Command in Hawaii, will return to Guam to talk more about the incoming Marines. Wynn said she is trying to get one of the women’s meetings on his schedule.

Both sides also acknowledged that with so many young adults as new residents, some fights and assaults are likely to happen. But the women from Guam asked how serious this problem could be.

“That’s especially true because of the publicity from Okinawa,” said Therese Terlaje, a general-practice attorney in Guam. “That’s what people hear.”

Brutal criminal cases make Okinawa front pages, such as an airman who molested a 10-year-old local child in 2005 or a Kadena Air Base worker who was convicted earlier this year of raping two local women.

But the military in Okinawa commit proportionately fewer crimes than local residents. In 2005, 1.8 percent of the 3,976 people arrested for serious crimes were Americans, according to Okinawa Prefectural Police statistics. The U.S. military community makes up about 3.3 percent of Okinawa’s population.

Won Pat said although she doesn’t believe the military buildup will mean “raping and pillaging,” she wants open communication with military officials and more proactive steps that can stop crimes from happening.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now