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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps is backing away from a plan to convert an abandoned military family housing area on Guam to an urban combat training center.

After a thorough assessment of the old Air Force housing complex known as Andersen South, the Marine Corps decided the site had too many drawbacks to warrant paying to upgrade it into a first-class training facility, according to a Marine Corps Headquarters news release.

The service expressed interest in using the area in 2001, according to the release, but “since then, the Marine Corps conducted a thorough assessment of ASTA that determined it is unsuitable as a training area.”

In February 2002 Congress approved transferring 1,541 acres at Andersen South for development as an urban warfare training center. It would have been the Marine’s largest such facility.

Okinawa’s compact urban training center, for example, is much smaller in scope and limited to a small neighborhood on Camp Hansen.

The Marines said the Andersen South site — some 360 multiplex housing units and five old barracks — “failed to meet a number of operational training requirements.”

Also cited, according to the statement: “the prohibitive repair and maintenance costs” needed to prepare the land, just south of Andersen Air Force Base in northern Guam, as a training facility.

Marines found that usable training space at the site could accommodate no units larger than a company and that upgrade costs would be prohibitive.

“The current condition of the property and buildings presents an unsafe and unsecure training environment for Marines, and the projected costs to upgrade and maintain ASTA as a safe and usable facility would far outweigh the limited training benefits,” the statement from Marine headquarters read.

“Finally,” it concluded, “planned civilian business development adjacent to ASTA would create safety concerns that likely would limit ASTA’s potential as a realistic training facility.”

No decisions have been made on any alternative urban training facilities, the message stated.

However, it also indicated the service will continue to look at Guam as an alternative training site.

“The Marine Corps still fully recognizes Guam’s potential as a regional force projection hub that could significantly support the Corps’ Sea Basing Strategy for the 21st Century,” the release stated.

Although Okinawa officials had seen the project as a possible means to reduce the number of Marines stationed on their island, Marine officials said the Guam facility was never meant to replace Marine bases and training areas on Okinawa.

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