Published by Pacific Daily News on December 23, 2015
Marines from Okinawa plan to conduct urban environment training in Guam next month, which could create noise in some villages. The Marine Corps officer in charge of the operation, Col. Daniel H. Wilson, on Tuesday issued the following open letter to Guam in connection with the training:
By now you may have heard that a small force of Marines and sailors are scheduled to conduct a training exercise in Guam next month. As the Officer in Charge of this exercise, I would like to explain to you what we have in mind and why your community is so important to us.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the fighting force for the Okinawa-based Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, set to deploy in the Asia-Pacific region. Typically, a MEU’s mission is to serve as a sea-based quick-reaction force, ready to respond to any crisis that occurs in its area of operations.
Many of the Marines you may see in the coming few weeks have served all over the world but we also have new Marines preparing to make their first deployment. Their lives and the success of our future missions depend on the training we accomplish during our work-ups in your community.
Months prior to deploying, an MEU begins training intensively for a multitude of separate and distinct missions which it must be ready to execute at any time. We conduct much of that training at our home bases in Okinawa and aboard Navy ships at sea; however, we cannot adequately prepare to operate in an unfamiliar environment without moving out of our comfort zone and into areas like yours with which we are not familiar.
Marines are trained to fight in every clime and place. For desert training, we go to Twentynine Palms, California. For cold-weather and mountain-warfare training, we head to Bridgeport, California, or Norway. For jungle-warfare training, we’ve sent Marines to Panama, the Philippines, Thailand, and Okinawa.
Training in an urban environment, though, is the most challenging situation we are likely to face. Maneuvering in a heavily congested area, identifying threats lurking in windows and around street corners, trying to tell whether a car speeding toward a vehicle checkpoint is a real threat or a simple mistake, are just a few examples of the challenges Marines face in an urban setting.
Our aim in Guam is to expose our Marines to realistic scenarios and stresses posed by operating in an actual urban environment, thereby increasing their proficiency in built up areas. Operating in Guam provides us with conditions we are not able to replicate aboard our home base.
The exercise runs from January 6 to 16. While most of the activity will take place aboard Navy installations, residents of the island could see Marines periodically throughout the exercise and are likely to notice increased military activities on the 13th and 15th of January.
We have coordinated our plans through the appropriate territorial agencies and village officials including the Guam Police Department, Guam Fire Department, the Office of Homeland Security, and Village Mayors to ensure the safety of residents and to minimize any impact on the community.
We understand that our presence may briefly raise the noise level in some villages and we greatly appreciate your patience and understanding. We hope you will bear with us as we complete this critical training exercise. Finally, we hope that what you observe will make you as proud as we are to serve on your behalf.