Monday, January 8, 2007
More Marines bound for O'ahu, Guam
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Marine presence on O'ahu could grow by about 1,000 as the service
reshuffles its forces in the Pacific and moves forward with plans to relocate 8,300
Marines from Okinawa to Guam by about 2014, Lt. Gen. John Goodman said.
The top Marine commander in the Pacific offered a straightforward explanation
for the move to Guam, which is precipitated by growing tensions and a
shortage of space on Okinawa.
"Why Guam? The answer is because I can't go to the Philippines," Goodman said
at a Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i military partnership conference last
"If our alliance with the Philippines would allow us to go there, I would
move 8,000 Marines right now to Manila Bay," Goodman said.
In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted to reject a treaty allowing U.S. bases
in the country, but the government continues to welcome U.S. military aid and
Strategically, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan also would be preferable for
the basing, but since such moves are not possible, Guam is as close as Goodman
can get to potential hot spots.
"I can take off from Guam in my helicopters or Okinawa with Marines on board
and I can be in the fight fast â within hours," the three-star general said.
Service commanders also emphasized the importance of Hawai'i as the Pacific
increasingly becomes a center of gravity for economic production, potential
terrorism, and military buildup by countries such as China.
At the same time, the United States is taking forces from Europe and South
Korea and pulling them back to the Mainland.
Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, who heads U.S. Army, Pacific, at Fort Shafter,
said 85 percent of the Army will be based in the continental United States in
the next few years. Forces that are forward-based, like those in Hawai'i, become
critical to national military strategy, Brown said.
"Those forces have to be early and initial entry forces that can respond to
the combatant commander's requirements immediately while that big portion in
the Army back in the continental U.S. moves forward," Brown said.
The Army's Stryker brigade is a fast-strike unit that is designed to be
deployed within days.
Hawai'i also remains a command and control nerve center.
Goodman said Hawai'i's contingent of about 6,500 Marines could grow by 800 to
1,000 as part of possible command and control changes at Kane'ohe Bay.
Adm. Gary Roughead, who commands U.S. Pacific Fleet from Pearl Harbor, noted
that exercise Valiant Shield off Guam in June brought together three aircraft
carriers, more than 300 aircraft and other forces in the biggest U.S. Navy and
Air Force presence in the western Pacific since the Vietnam War.
The exercise was commanded from the Navy's Makalapa headquarters and Kenney
Headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base.
"But Hawai'i really enables it all from the Navy perspective," Roughead said.
"We do have the tyranny of distance, but with today's technology, we're now
commanding our forces in ways that were unheard of 10 to 15 years ago."
The Navy presence in the region is only going to grow with defense planning
expected to tip the balance of attack submarines from a 50/50 split in the
Pacific and Atlantic to 60 percent in the Pacific, Roughead said.
Some 22,000 Marines from Marine Forces Pacific drawn from California,
Hawai'i, Arizona, Okinawa and Mainland Japan are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that
number probably will go up by another 3,000 to 4,000 over the course of the year
if anticipated orders are received, Goodman said.
Brown said excluding a troop level change expected to be made by the
president, 25,000 U.S. Army, Pacific, soldiers are expected to serve in Iraq and
Afghanistan this fiscal year, and in fiscal 2008 another 25,000 will be prepared to
deploy if called upon.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com.