Thursday, September 28, 2006

Militay May Retake Land

Military may retake land
Finegayan area to be used for firing ranges
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

The pending transfer of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam means the military needs to create more live-fire ranges here for training, according to a 91-page military development plan from the U.S. Pacific Command.

Among other things, it could mean mortar rounds being launched at a target range in Naval Magazine and the creation of machine gun and rifle ranges in the Finegayan area of Dededo, where the 8,000 Marines would be relocated. Every Marine must be able to use a rifle well, and their skills are tested regularly on the range.

If the Marines want to conduct "fire and movement" training at Finegayan, it also could mean hundreds of acres of recently returned ancestral land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan would once again be needed by the military. Excess military and other federal land since 2002 has been returned to its original owners or their heirs as part of the Guam government's ancestral land process.

Two options
The Guam Integrated Military Development Plan spells out two options for military weapons training in the Finegayan area -- one that uses only existing military land in the area for target practice, and one that would require additional non-military land to provide a safe zone downrange of a "fire and maneuver range" and for additional housing and other quality-of-life development for the base.

The plan states that rifle and machine gun ranges are feasible without additional land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan. It states that the military would prefer most of the training on Guam to be available at home base, "within foot-marching distance." It rules out live artillery training on Guam, and states that the former Andersen South Housing area should be used for training with blank ammunition only.

Military officials in recent months have said that none of the plans for military expansion on Guam are official, and much of what happens here depends on the amount of funding made available for the transfer.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, deputy commander of Pacific Command, earlier this month told Guam lawmakers "most, if not all," of the development will happen on land currently held by the military.

Caught in the middle
If the military decides it needs the land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan, caught in the middle would be ancestral landowner Jose Pangelinan, 82, and five siblings, who currently are having the property boundaries surveyed as part of the ancestral land return process.

Their land, as well as the ancestral land of the San Nicolas family, would be in the path of the military's "surface danger zone" for the "fire and movement" range, which according to the Marine Corps basic training manual for officers, is the area used when individuals, teams or squads provide cover fire while other individuals, teams or squads advance toward or assault an enemy position.

Most of the land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan is former Spanish "crown land" which means it was not privately held when it was condemned by the federal government and it is being held by the Ancestral Lands Commission to develop for the benefit of those whose family land cannot be returned.

Pangelinan yesterday said it would be an "injustice" if the military decides to again condemn his family property, and said the military should use the property it already has farther north.

"The Navy took it for a long time -- for the last 50 years. They took a lot of our property. Why in the hell do we have to go through that trouble again when we're trying to build a place ourselves?" he asked.

"My father bought that (land) when he was a young man 80 years ago. The Navy came after the war and chased us out (of) there. They gave it (back) to us, part of it, then they want to use it again?"

He said his family has spent two years working on the land return, and, "I was looking forward to finish the job."

The plan also states that the military-held area at Naval Magazine in southern Guam could be used as a range for 60mm and 81mm mortars. The ability to use that area for a mortar range is limited by the nearby storage of munitions, the plan states, so it might be necessary to remove and relocate some storage facilities there.

Originally published September 29, 2006

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