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Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas commander, speaks to Rotarians on the importance of live-fire training for Marine Corps personnel and the military buildup in the region.
Rick Cruz/PDN

Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield told members of the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay Thursday that the military is committed to relocating Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

“The relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam increases our defense posture and security for our island, our nation and for all Americans,” she said.

As many as 5,000 U.S. Marines, mostly from Okinawa, will be relocated to a new Marine Corps Base in Dededo, with the first large group of Marines arriving in 2025. The buildup on Guam is part of a larger realignment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, intended, in part to address concerns about the impact of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa.

The Navy in August announced two milestones in the Guam buildup — the awarding of a a $164.89 million contract to begin building infrastructure for the new base, and the awarding of a $78 million contract to begin constructing a new firing range complex for the Marines.

And a $17.9 million contract was awarded this month to build a waterfront headquarters building for the Marines at Apra Harbor.

The buildup projects on Guam are expected to cost about $8.6 billion.

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Pagat, Mangilao, was the original preferred site for the firing range. But, following public outcry over the potential impact on areas of cultural significance there, the military reevaluated sites and selected Northwest Field, at Andersen Air Force Base, as the new site.

The announcement that a contract had been awarded for the firing range complex triggered a new round of protests, by those opposed to the potential impact of the complex on neighboring Ritidian.

Guam lawmakers this week adopted a resolution, taking the position that the construction on the range complex should be delayed, pending more study.

Chatfield said the military is mindful of cultural and environmental issues that will be affected by the buildup and are committed to mitigating them.

She said the Navy has been pushing for funding for a cultural artifact repository for the island and was able to get it approved this year. 

“We remain stewards of the environment, and we remain cognizant of the island’s cultural resources,” she said. 

She also shared how the military has helped fund environmental projects, including planting native plant species.

Chatfield stressed the importance of having a live-fire training range for the Marines relocating to Guam.

Current ranges on island don’t meet the standards of the Marine training requirements, Chatfield has stated. 

“It’s so vital to their combat effectiveness, and that will happen right here on Guam,” she said. 

She said the relationship between the community and the military is symbiotic and exists because of the support of the island’s residents.

“Gone are the days where all we had to do was unfurl the Stars and Stripes, and that was enough to deter our enemies,” she said.

Maintaining a presence in the region and having the capacity to respond to events in the area is important, she said.

“Our defense remains top priority,” Chatfield said. 

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