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Plans to increase civilian access to base, encourage interaction

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 5, 2011) - After a year in Guam, Capt. Richard Wood said he hopes to build bonds beyond the walls of the Navy base he commands.

He hopes to convince sailors to venture deeper into the island community outside the base, and expand civilian public access to the military properties inside.

During a presentation to the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay yesterday, Wood, commander of U.S. Naval Base Guam, said there are two priorities that could create stronger ties between Guam's civilian and military communities.

First, Wood said he wanted to make the Navy base a "highly desirable assignment" for sailors, and encourage those who are lucky enough to be assigned here to embrace the island.

Second, Wood said he hoped to increase opportunities for the public to access Naval Base and other military properties, which should be open to any "American taxpayer" under the right circumstances.

"It's been one year since I reported as the (commanding officer) of Naval Base Guam and it's been an absolute pleasure. ... The opportunity to come to Guam and learn about a wonderful place that I honestly didn't know much about has been one of the highlights of my career in the Navy," Wood said.

Most sailors who are deployed to Guam are equally thrilled to be here, Wood said, but some struggle with the distance from home, the hot climate, or difficulty for military spouses in finding jobs.

Many sailors who do choose to come to Guam do so for the opportunity to travel to the far side of the globe and experience unfamiliar cultures, but it is equally important that they explore the island too, the base commander said.

"I want people on base to shop out in town, to participate out in town. Come down to Chamorro Village. Do lots of things off base. I encourage my sailors to do that all the time," he said. "I think it's important for sailors to understand the local culture, local political environment and local issues."

Wood also talked about working to increase public access to the military base, citing the success of cultural events, like the annual return to the Sumay village site.

"I am committed to providing as much access as possible, balanced with some of the restrictions in regard to explosives ordnance safety concerns ... and security concerns," Wood said. "But I think it's important that the American taxpayer -- anywhere he or she lives -- is able to come and visit Naval Base Guam to see the cultural sites and the ships."

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