Friday, December 02, 2016

Andersen commander updates Rotarians on plans

The Rotary Club of Guam met yesterday for their weekly meeting at the Pacific Star Resort and Spa, where Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox was the guest speaker at the luncheon meeting. A 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Cox serves as the commander of the Pacific Air Forces 36th Wing, stationed at Andersen Air Force Base.
Rotarians were briefed on a broad overview of exercises and plans happening at the northern air base.

Cox discussed various items, including the inventory of Air Force power on the base, the impact President-elect Donald Trump may have on military affairs, major construction ongoing on the base, the safety of airmen stemming from recent water-related deaths in Guam waters, and North Korean military exercises in the region.
Giving a brief update on the vehicular and facility inventories of AAFB, Cox described the base as a growing Air Force power, hosting several ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) Global Hawks, F-22 fighter jets, KC-135 tankers, MH-60 helicopters, and B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers.
The Air Force base also boasts its own Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is an anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Kim Jong-un is there, and we are here. The fact that we’re here allows the United States the ability to project power when needed to assure our allies in the region,” Cox told Rotarians. “We as an American government and people can assert the bounds of the Pacific region, and that makes Guam a very valuable and strategic location for maritime and air power." 
Projecting Guam’s strategic location in the Pacific region as a valuable asset to the U.S. and its allies in the region, including Australia, South Korea, Japan, and the southeastern parts of Asia, Cox also recognized that the position comes with its related threats.
“If we know that Guam is a strategic location for power, then those who would oppose us, our adversaries, know it as well,” Cox explained. “(Our enemies) are working hard to make our life more difficult, and the way that we stand up to that threat is with fighter presence." 
North Korean threat
One concern Rotarians had was the threat of Guam’s nearby neighbor North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un.
Cox was quick to discredit Kim, saying that his popularized "irrational" or "unpredictable" nature is actually very rational, and that the Korean dictator is doing what he needs to do to try to preserve the little actual power and flexibility he has.
“I don’t think that on a daily basis, we need to not be sleeping at night because of North Korea,” Cox said. “I also think that it would be a big mistake for us to ignore North Korea. We have to pay attention to what they’re doing and we have to be prepared to respond. That’s what we do at AAFB.”
Trump's influence
When asked if recently elected President-elect Donald Trump had any plans to change any Air Force or military directions on Guam, Cox responded by saying that he’s unaware of any possible movement or orders given by the president-elect.
“I don’t know of any discussion of that. I haven’t even heard if anything is being contemplated. If there is a case, it hasn’t come to my level yet,” Cox said. 
Cox went on to discuss the numerous construction projects going on within the northern base, explaining that the base is installing green aviation combat elements, two additional Air Force hangars, and supporting utilities and facilities.
Cox said the large-scale construction comes as the Vietnam War-era hangars needed to be replaced with more robust and resilient facilities for the future.
Other future construction plans for the base include recapitalizing housing structures that were built from the 1940s to 1960s, estimating that a total of 1,000 military houses need to be remodeled. 
Water safety
Rotarians also posed concerns about recent water-related fatalities of airmen stationed on Guam – including Senior Airman Travis Bennet, whose body was recovered from Pagat waters on Nov. 21, and Master Sgt. Greg Ramos, who went missing at Tarague Beach on Nov. 21.
“I have no higher priority than to keep our airmen safe so that they can do their missions, and get back to their families,” Cox said.
“I will tell you that we have a very strong briefing in our orientation programs, but sometimes it’s hard to make the shift from wherever you’re from to the real dangers that exist. We are working hard to make sure that everyone understands the dangers and most importantly, comply to the appropriate restrictions,” he added.
Cox omits many subject areas that include, but are not limited to the following:

1. How much fresh water the Air Force uses every day;
2. How much fresh water is stored at Andersen AFB;
3. How much waste water in gallons and weight, is produced by AAFB every day;
4. Where the waste water is transmitted and how and where it is finally discharged or disposed of;
5. Amounts of sewage produced every day in gallons and by weight and how it is treated and discharged into the environment and where it is discharged;
6. Space operations, space warfare, early warning capabilities and islander vulnerabilities should the Chinese or DPRK shot down or disrupt American ultra high frequency military satellites as well as civilian or commercial satellites;
7. Underwater explosions conducted by the military off the coastal areas of northern Guam;
8. Use of space drones by the Air Force;
9. Real ICBM threats, air, land or sea based, beyond the rhetoric tied to DPRK;
10. Further access limitations imposed on Air Force property for Chamorros and islanders who want to visit the F&W areas;
11. Current status of AAFB as a SuperFund site and the status of clean-up efforts;
12. Status of possible Continuing Resolution and its impact on Overseas Contingencies in the Congress;
13. Lack of political rights and voice of the Chamorro people and all residents of Guam;

In my opinion, the underlying reported and published remarks by Cox presuppose military conquest that continually undermines the legitimacy and voice of Pacific Islanders because Andersen AFB was not built with the consent of islanders, it was taken by the then War Department and Pentagon.

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