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15,000-acre site proposed for range facilities

By Jude Lizama HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Dec. 24, 2009) – A draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, suggests the expansion of military training exercises through Guam and the Northern Marianas, citing the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Training Concept Plan of 2008 as a document that provides "unconstrained" views of the training possibilities in the region.

Additionally, the impact statement indicates that the "development, operation, and ongoing periodic use of these ranges is necessary to maintain the state of readiness required for Marine Corps forces relocated to Guam pursuant to the Roadmap Agreement with Japan," and adds that "This progression of development of range capabilities would continue as technology, weapon systems, and operational requirements continue to evolve."

According to the EIS, the training concept plan and a 2006 Range Concept Management Plan, along with documents "in progress" such as the Joint Guam Program Office’s Guam Joint Military Master Plan and CNMI Military Training Master Plan, "represent the next phases of the master planning for efforts in Guam and the CNMI."

"The Range Complex Management Plan identified specific range deficiencies, including lack of live-fire ranges in the Marianas," the EIS stated.

The north and central portions of Tinian contains two connected training ranges within the defense department’s Military Lease Area, or MLA, known as the Exclusive Military Use Area and Leaseback Area for a combined area of more than 15,000 acres.

Based on the proposed action, the EIS states that the MLA will be developed to house live firing ranges such as a distance rifle range, platoon battle course, automated combat pistol range, field firing range and surface danger zones.

With regard to use of airspace, the study cites that "the vertical hazard area associated with the proposed firing ranges would be managed to ensure that aircraft could safely operate in airspace overlying the proposed firing ranges."

To ensure continued compliance with the U.S.-Japan Roadmap Agreement, the EIS stated that "individual, crew, and small unit weapons training would be required for Marine forces relocating from Okinawa to Guam."

It added, "The concept for Tinian is to provide the next stage in the training progression, and includes development of ranges for tactical employment of the basic weapons skills developed on Guam," as described in the Mariana Islands Range Complex EIS/OEIS.

Ocean surface/undersea areas, special use airspace, and training land areas make up the three primary components of the MIRC.

Surface and underwater areas, according to the study, "extend from the waters south of Guam to north of Pagan and from the Pacific Ocean east of the Marianas Islands to the middle of the Philippine Sea to the west."

The range complex includes land ranges and training area/facilities on Guam, Rota, Tinian, Saipan, and Farallon de Medinilla.

The EIS states that there is no active live-fire ranges located in Tinian’s EMUA or LBA, "except sniper small-arms into bullet traps."

Tinian, it added, is "capable of supporting Marine Expeditionary Unit aviation events such as ground element training and air element training, simulated evacuations of noncombatants, airfield seizure training, expeditionary airfield training, and special warfare activities."

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