By Joe Murphy

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 20) - Are we going to have a military "explosion" on Guam? That seems to be the question facing us today.

There has been a lot of speculation, but little concrete information from the Pentagon - until now.

Thanks to computers, and the willingness of people who want us to know, I have been leaked a copy of an "Executive Summary of the Proposed Environmental Assessment in support of the Organization Relocation to Northwest Field, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam."

That all sounds like gobbledygook to me. I guess I’ve been out of the service too long. Northwest Field hasn’t been used for much for 40 years or more, except for some hunting and, perhaps, some attempts to revive certain bird species before they become extinct.

But the leaked summary says the proposed environmental assessment will assess the proposed organization of three units from the Korean peninsula and one unit from Japan. They will identify, describe and evaluate the potential environmental impacts that may result from the implementation of the proposed action.

The Air Force unit relocation mission seems large to me, and related to training and readiness for support personnel; they don't employ any aircraft. Those units which are being considered for location are: the 554 Red Horse, Civil Engineering Squadron, 140 personnel; Detachment 1,554 RHCES, 36 personnel out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; Commando Warrior, 28 personnel out of Osan Air Base, South Korea; and a Combat Communications Squadron, 136 personnel, out of Camp Humphries, South Korea; and 27 support personnel from all the above locations.

In addition, the summary says, the units will be training approximately 2,000 personnel per year at the rate of 150-200 people per month. These training requirements consist of a combination of academic/classroom and contingency tent bed down training.

This relocation initiative has just been declassified and the Air Force is ready to proceed with open communications flow with other government agencies.

The people of Guam should be grateful for the National Environmental Policy Act because at least we are assured of information regarding such relocations and an assessment of the impact those changes will cause the island.

The summary states that the Pacific region has become increasingly important to U.S. security in recent years. The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review noted that U.S. forces lack sufficient access to Asia and directed the Air Force to expand basing in the Pacific.

It says that "in order to achieve the U.S. security objectives, the Air Force is planning to base and operate several aircraft systems at Andersen Air Force Base."

That could include the basing and operation of approximately 48 fighter-type aircraft, around 12 aircraft refueling tankers, between three to six intelligence drones, as well as the operation of existing rotational B-52s, with a possible addition of two intelligence aircraft. In support of the new mission, the Air Force projects a population increase of approximately 4,500 individuals at Andersen, which will include the families of permanently stationed personnel.

The Air Force is currently looking at different alternatives to account for the projected housing shortfall. One of the housing options is to develop approximately 200 acres of land between the golf course and the east cliff region of Andersen.

The Air Force brass won't make these relocations in a haphazard fashion. It will include airspace and airfield operation, assessments of bird-aircraft strike hazard, noise, land use, air quality, infrastructure and utilities, energy and solid waste, as well as transportation.

The economy of Guam, after years of disaster, has to be heading in a new direction -- and soon.

Joe Murphy is a former editor of the Pacific Daily News.

December 21, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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