Growing Marine Corps base on Guam holds its first change-of-command ceremony
A new commander has taken charge of a new Marine Corps base on Guam, where 5,000 members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force are set to move over the next five years from Okinawa.
Camp Blaz, near Andersen Air Force Base, was commissioned in September as the first new Marine installation since Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany opened in Georgia on March 1, 1952.
Its new leader, Col. Christopher Bopp, took command Friday from Col. Bradley Magrath at the Camp Blaz Aviation Maintenance Hangar, the Marines said in a statement posted Saturday on Facebook.
Magarth oversaw the transition of forces from Marine Corps Activity Guam to the new base, according to the Marines.
“It was a great honor to serve as Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz's first commanding officer,” he said in the statement.
Bopp was commissioned in 1996 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. He most recently served as a Secretary of Defense Executive Fellow at Norfolk Southern Corp. in Atlanta, according to the Marines.
“I look forward to the opportunity to lead our nation’s finest and continuing the great progress that has been accomplished thus far,” he said in the statement. “We remain committed to working together with all our partners to ensure a responsible and effective construction process.”
The command change comes at a time of rising tensions in the Pacific as China presses claims to sea territory and builds military strength that threatens U.S. forces in the region.
Camp Blaz is named in honor of the late Marine Brig. Gen. Vicente “Ben” Tomas Garrido Blaz, a Guam native.
The base is still under construction in an area known as Finegayan on land that, until recently, was covered in a thick jungle full of snakes and littered with World War II-era bombs and bullets.
The Japanese government is funding $3 billion worth of projects for the Marines’ relocation, with the U.S. government spending another $5.7 billion.
Only 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed on Guam, with another 3,700 coming to the island as a rotational force in the same way a Marine Air Ground Task Force deploys to Australia’s Northern Territory to train each summer.
The heart of Camp Blaz is next door to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam, just west of Andersen. Families of Marines working on Blaz will live on Andersen.
The facility will include several new ranges, including a multipurpose machine gun range along Guam’s northwestern coast. An abandoned housing area, known as Andersen South, is being turned into an urban training compound for the Marines.
Facilities for the Marines’ aviation element will be at Andersen’s North Ramp.