Guam leaders excited by prospect of Marine relocation
Details as to when 7,000 Marines from Okinawa will begin to move to Guam and where they’ll be located have yet to be announced, but Guam residents are waiting with arms wide open, said one local businessman and civic leader.
“We’ve been working to get more military here. We believe it would be good for the island, and we welcome them here,” said Jim Adkins, a member of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee, a group of volunteers promoting Defense Department investment on Guam, military tourism and economic development with the military.
News that the Marines were to relocate to Guam was not a surprise, Adkins said in a telephone interview Saturday night. “We’ve been expecting to have the Marines come here. There’s been quite a bit of talk with the [Guam] governor and others that something like that could happen.”
Though the troop transfer to the 200-square-mile Pacific island is expected to take place over a six-year period, there’s no word yet as to where on Guam the Marines will be based. After conferring with U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, Navy officials on Guam referred a Stars and Stripes query about that issue to the Office of the Secretary Defense in Washington.
Adkins said Marines could be located several places on Guam. “There’s a lot of room at Andersen [Air Force Base] and there’s a lot of room on the southern part of the island at the naval station,” he said, referring to Naval Base Guam. “I’m pretty sure they would spread them out.”
The troop influx, however, will require additional infrastructure. “We’re going to have build a lot of barracks, a lot of facilities to handle the Marines,” he said. The island in the past has supported a large military presence “so this is nothing new. I think it will be a great help for the economy, and it will provide a tremendous amount of jobs for the local people.”
The island, meanwhile, continues to vie for an aircraft carrier. “If the Pentagon decides to put a second carrier in the Pacific, we believe Guam is the ideal location,” Adkins said.
The Navy reportedly has been considering permanently basing an aircraft carrier on either Guam or Hawaii.
Not immediately clear is how Friday’s announcement — that the Navy plans to replace the USS Kitty Hawk in Yokosuka, Japan, with a nuclear-powered carrier in 2008 — might affect that possibility.
“We expect a lot more port calls here from carriers as we build up our wharfs and infrastructure so we can handle more ships,” Adkins said. “We’re anxiously awaiting to hear what all will be coming to Guam.”