U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS George Washington Visits Guam

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Economic boost expected from 5,500 person crew

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 1, 2014) – Guam's economy will get a much-needed boost and the community will get an army of volunteers when the George Washington Strike Group, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, docks tomorrow.

The last time the aircraft carrier visited, in 2012, most of the ship's 5,500-person crew was able to spend time on the island.

Joint Region Marianas yesterday issued a written statement confirming that the carrier and the USS Antietam are scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

The carrier is coming to Guam after participating in the weeklong Valiant Shield exercise, which finished on Sept. 23.

It's unclear how long the ships will be docked here, but Joint Region Marianas said ship personnel will participate in community events -- mostly at local public schools -- through Oct. 6.

Hundreds of sailors will volunteer their time at the events, according to Joint Region Marianas.

During past port visits, the length of the stay wasn't stated due to security reasons.

During Valiant Shield, two aircraft carriers, 19 surface ships, more than 200 aircraft and an estimated 18,000 people from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps participated.

The island's businesses have been preparing for the ships' possible arrival, and it's anticipated to bring a spike in economic activity of about $1 million a day.

"Past Valiant Shield exercises have always resulted in positive economic impacts to our island as many of our visiting military personnel look forward to going downtown, ... to experience our local restaurants, hotels, shops and entertainment venues, resulting in a spike in business during these exercises," said David Leddy, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

The island's residents can help the service members feel welcome, local business leaders said.

"Tourism is our primary industry, so we all want to do our part in ensuring a positive visitor experience for all our tourists," Leddy said. "This can be as simple as extending a warm 'hafa adai' greeting, a friendly smile and courtesy to our tourists. And, ... in the case of our visiting military, thanking them for their service," Leddy said.

According to Pacific Daily News files, each visiting service member typically spends between $200 and $300 a day on the island.

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to its website.

The island's military community also has been preparing for the visit, and this week the Naval Base Guam Facebook page advised residents to do their shopping on base before the ships arrive.

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