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Commander of Pacfic Air Forces Gen. Paul Hester speaks to the media at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Wednesday.
Commander of Pacfic Air Forces Gen. Paul Hester speaks to the media at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Wednesday. (Frank Whitman / Special to S&S)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — The commander of Pacific Air Forces gave a glimpse into Guam’s future at the end of a 24-hour visit here Wednesday.

The Air Force’s current practice of deploying bombers to Guam for about four months at a time will continue into the foreseeable future, with the planes permanently stationed at stateside bases, Gen. Paul Hester said.

Fighter deployments have been less regular in the past but “we expect to see more of the fighter deployments over the next several years come in on an established basis, maybe once or twice a year,” he said in a meeting with media.

“We expect that the tankers will stay rotational until our desire later in the decade for them to become permanent,” he added. “We are trying to find an opportunity to get about 12 tankers to move permanently into Guam.”

The Air Force has proposed establishing a Global Strike Task Force, Hester said. It would start in 2006 and would include “about six” Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to be based permanently at Andersen, he said.

“Then we’re talking with other nations to see if they buy Global Hawk, whether they would station those permanently in their country or would they join here in Guam,” he said. “We would use this as kind of an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Global Hawk Center of Excellence.”

Looking farther into the future, Hester said details of relocating up to 7,000 Marines from Okinawa, which was announced recently, have yet to be completed but such a move undoubtedly would affect Guam’s bases.

“That quantity of people requires us obviously to have the ability to feed them, house them, have a place for them to train — and those things have not yet been done,” he said. While Andersen regularly hosts expeditionary forces on a temporary basis, it currently lacks the capacity to accommodate such a large group.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” the general said. “ … But (36th Air Expeditionary Wing commander) Col. (Michael) Boera’s got his pencil pretty sharp and he’s trying to figure out how he can host the required number of Marines if they come or a Navy increase in population if it comes this way.”

Hester was addressing the possible use of Andersen by a Navy carrier air wing should an aircraft carrier be stationed on Guam. The Honolulu International Airport and Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii, reportedly Guam’s main competitor to house a carrier, already have full contingents of planes. A carrier air wing, therefore, likely would have to be divided and stationed in different locations in Hawaii.

“Our ramp at Andersen probably provides more dedicated concrete if they chose to bring the carrier air wing here,” Hester said. “I think the Navy would tell you that if they were to bring the aircraft carrier here they would want the carrier air wing to be in Guam as well. So I think that would be attractive at Andersen.

“If — with the big word ‘IF’ — an aircraft carrier came to Guam, we certainly would be interested to have detailed discussions with the Navy leadership on whether the air wing could be stationed permanently out at Andersen Air Force base.”

While on Guam, Hester also met with Andersen officials and attended a small reception with members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee. He was to head next to Thailand, Malaysia and Okinawa.

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