Pacific Paradise Serves Tactical Purpose
Although Guam's tropical locale renders it a go-to destination for U.S. military personnel, the island's sheer distance from the continental United States poses logistical challenges for troops deployed there. The 212-square-mile island of Guam is located seven time zones and more than 3,800 miles away from Hawaii and falls on the other side of the International Date Line. It is the largest and southernmost island of the Marianas Island chain. An unincorporated territory of the United States, the island supports tactical needs in the region. In his article, "Small Island Has a Big Role" in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Max Cacas highlights the role that U.S. military bases-as well as the island itself-play in continued operational and humanitarian missions. Andersen Air Force Base, serving as a warfighting platform, and Naval Base Guam, acting as a logistical hub, are the two main military facilities on the island operating jointly as part of Joint Region Marianas. According to Brig. Gen. John Doucette, USAF, 36th Wing commander, Andersen Air Force Base, the base is the westernmost part of the United States, and Air Force aircraft, personnel and equipment from Andersen can rapidly deploy and respond as needed. Working with, and providing more resources to, the tiny island poses a challenge for U.S. forces. Supporting Guam's infrastructure while changing and updating the military's assets is a main concern, according to Gen. Doucette:
The biggest challenge for Andersen Air Force Base is the same one seen by the rest of the Department of Defense, namely to balance current operations with future requirements to ensure the defense of the United States, maintain peace and stability throughout the region, and ensure U.S. taxpayer funds are used efficiently and wisely.
The eventual relocation of U.S. military bases and personnel in Okinawa, Japan, to facilities on Guam by 2014 is another goal being undertaken that has the potential to place added strain on the island. According to Gen. Doucette, however, any reallocation of forces or adjustment to the mission of Andersen Air Force Base and the 36th Wing is subject to regulations put forth in the National Environmental Policy Act. Since the mid-1940s, numerous military operations have launched from Andersen Air Force Base, such as World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. Andersen has served as a base for relief operations during natural disasters as well. It remains a crucial link in the U.S. military's Asia-Pacific presence.