IF GUAM is your home, as it is mine, the military forces here and their leadership are as much a part of the local scene as our villages and Two Lover’s Point.
It’s been that way back to the arrival of the Americans in 1898, except that in modern times, the military leaders and their troops predictably rotate out. It sometimes seems that not long after we get done saying hello, there’s a Change of Command and we are saying good bye, often with the regret of seeing a proven friend depart.
The last few years have been particularly tough on the Guam community which repeatedly had the carrot of economic development and related island jobs dangled in front of it, only to have it snatched abruptly away.
As chairperson of the Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup, I can testify that our major problem has been lack of information about an enormous undertaking which has undergone fundamental changes during its planning stages and – if you are closely following this – the planning isn’t even complete at this late date.
So I am very appreciative of those uniformed personnel who have tried to keep us up to speed on development of what is now known as the Pacific military realignment. One such is Marine Col. Robert Loynd, who will be departing next month.
Col. Loynd has a background and a career that reflects both military and diplomatic skills which served him well in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. In one of those military ironies, he’s being shipped out before having much of a chance to polish up his fluent Russian on the new wave of visa-waivered tourists on Tumon Bay.
Also soon to leave our shores is Brig. Gen. John W. Doucette, best known to all of us as the Base Commanding Officer at Andersen AFB. General Doucette has other hats in his closet, among them, Commander, 36th Wing and Deputy Commander of Joint Region Marianas.
Gen. Doucette was also a gracious host this week, as he showed a group of Guam Legislators, including myself, around Andersen’s historic Northwest Field.
There’s no question about the World War II historic nature of Northwest Field, but, as our tour made clear, there is more history to be made here. Long after Gen. Doucette leaves Guam, he’ll be remembered for the building boom that took place on his watch, as the Air Force prepares to recreate Andersen as a major regional training center.
The Pacific Regional Training Center moved from Osan Air Base in South Korea to Guam in 2007, one of only six training centers worldwide. A couple of the many construction projects underway at Andersen are a student barracks for the Commando Warrior Flight program and a headquarters for the Red Horse squadron.
Commander Warrior grads typically deploy for six-month tours to combat zones like Afghanistan and Iraq to serve as local police within bases, helping secure airfields and flight lines, guarding base fence lines and conducting force protection patrols off-base.
Red Horse – let’s just say these combat engineers provide all the services you need if you’re planning to start a war or end one – also moved to Guam from Korea in 2007.
Of course, as Gen. Doucette assured us, all this activity isn’t part of what we once called the Guam military buildup, but as one without access to the ‘big picture,’ I have some trouble making that distinction.
Finally, thanks to our Navy friends for renaming one of its recently purchased high speed ferries, USNS Guam. As I said in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, “We will be further honored if you can homeport the GUAM and PUERTO RICO here in Guam.”
My deepest appreciation to Col. Loynd and Gen. Doucette for their leadership and warm relations with the people of Guam. They are amazing gentlemen and will be missed by their military commands here and by all of us.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com.