Sunday, December 13, 2009

Navy outlines plans for base in Guam

Navy outlines plans for base in Guam

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 13, 2009 9:07:21 EST

8,600 Marines to come from Okinawa

Navy officials have outlined their plans to build a Marine Corps base in Guam and expeditionary field training sites on the nearby island of Tinian, measures meant to support the relocation of 8,600 Marines from Okinawa beginning in 2014.

A draft environmental impact statement released in November provides the first detailed look at how a military buildup in the archipelago would work. The final EIS should be complete by summer.

In addition to the 8,600 Marines, 9,000 family members and about 1,800 Defense Department civilian workers would make the move, which is expected to be complete by 2020. The Corps’ biggest project will be construction of a new base covering 2,500 acres. It would include headquarters offices, unit spaces and supply warehouses, as well as barracks, family housing and day care. Officials have studied eight locations in the island’s northern area, not far from Andersen Air Force Base.

Those facilities would support about a brigade’s worth of troops composing a Marine air-ground task force, to include combat elements from III Marine Expeditionary Force, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. To accommodate all those troops, training areas south of Andersen would expand.

Plans call for the construction of a convoy course, an urban-combat facility and additional live-fire small-arms ranges. The Corps also plans to add drop zones for parachuting, landing zones for helicopters, and facilities along the waterfront that can support amphibious vehicles, assault craft and small boats. Aviation structures would be put at the Air Force base.

Officials want to provide individual and small-unit training for the Marines based on Guam, meaning they would need facilities for rifle qualifications, combat-swim quals, gas-chamber training and other requisites. They’re looking at adding various simulators as well.

Marines also would get to train on Tinian, a small island about 100 miles north of Guam. The U.S. leases land on about two-thirds of the island and uses it now for company-level non-live fire training.

Military officials want to build several live-fire ranges there to support even more company-level field training. Doing so “provides reliable access and maximum opportunity to realistically train with their weapons and equipment while minimizing time lost when traveling to training locations,” according to the environmental report.

The Corps does not intend to build permanent facilities on Tinian. Instead, officials are designing the ranges to be expeditionary, meaning portable toilets and solar-powered systems likely would be used.

Neither Tinian nor Guam would be able to support the types of large-scale training that the Corps’ bigger bases can. Marines based there would have to travel to other sites that allow them to complete core competencies such as Mojave Viper pre-deployment exercises. Although the proposed Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility likely would serve an entire battalion, companies and platoons would use it in round-robin fashion as they do at other MOUTs.

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review is expected to address whether additional training facilities that can support larger Marine units are needed in the Pacific.

Military officials plan to hold six public hearings on the proposals Jan. 7-15 in Guam, Tinian and Saipan. Comments on the proposal also can be submitted online at www.guambuildupeis.usuntil Feb. 17.
The numbers

• The planned move of 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam is expected to cost $13 billion by the time it is complete in 2020.

• The Japanese government would provide up to $6 billion as part of cost-sharing agreement.

• Guam’s current population is 178,000.

• The U.S. military footprint there now is about 15,000.

• By 2020 it’s expected to be 39,000.
Other changes

Apart from the influx of Marines, additional projects in Guam may include:

• The addition of 600 soldiers to establish an Army Air and Missile Defense Task Force.

• Expanded port operations in Apra Harbor to support a transiting nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

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