I wrote this post more than a year before the initial announcement that the Department of Defense was making plans to "transfer" 7,000 of its Marines based in Okinawa to Guam. This number of Marines was later increased to 8,000, and expanded to include approximately 9,000 dependents and an unknown number of troops from South Korea.
My post wasn't very long, but just touched lightly on the ways Okinawa and Guam are linked together through the sorts of catastrophic, invasive and everyday damages that a large military presence can bring. Mamahlao yu' didide' put este na klasin post pa'go, sa' kulang ti to'a an un kompara i tinige'-hu gi ayu na tiempo yan i tinige'-hu pa'go. But nonetheless this post is important to me because it represented one of my first public blog posts which would criticize the way the military is imagined and thought of on Guam, as something which brings only good and no bad. Something which brings all the means of life, and without it the island and its people are all condemned to numerous forms of death and disaster.
What spurned me to write this post was a letter to the editor that I was forwarded by a Japanese student at the University of Hawai'i. The title given to the letter was "U.S. Forces on Okinawa Endangering the People." I'm posting the entire text of it, since it is something all people on Guam should read.
U.S. forces on Okinawa endangering the people
By Kozue Uehara
On Aug. 13, a transportation helicopter, a CH-53-D Sea Stallion belonging to U.S. Marines based on O'ahu, crashed on Okinawan International University in Ginowan city. The helicopter exploded and filled the scene with smoke. The staff of the university ran away from shattered-glass windows. Students taking summer session fled the danger.
Before it crashed, the defective helicopter wandered around, scattering many parts and oil over the densely populated area, including a 26-foot fin of the propeller, which penetrated a door and a cement wall and destroyed the TV in the room where a little child was taking a nap. Students and people next to the scene were trembling and crying. U.S. Forces Japan commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, however, emphasized the distinguished service of the crews in avoiding death and injury of residents.
More than 50,000 servicemen and civilian employees of the Army and 75 percent of all U.S. bases in Japan have been in Okinawa since World War II. The U.S. troops have held up the ideal of their being here for "security" and "democratization" of the world.
In Okinawa, however, human rights of the residents have not been enhanced because of the existence of the U.S. forces. There are also many people who are suffering from hearing loss caused by the roaring sound of training flights.
In 1959, a U.S. Army jet plane crashed on Miyamori elementary school in Ishikawa city, Okinawa. The training accident killed 17 people (11 children) and injured 121.
Can the huge U.S. forces imagine the sadness and fear of the people?
The U.S. and the Japanese governments reached an agreement of restoration for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in Ginowan city, after the people's protests against the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl in 1995 by U.S. servicemen.
Both governments, however, started to pressure Okinawa prefecture in favor of constructing a substantial military base in Henoko Bay, Okinawa, with its beautiful coral reefs.
I hope that U.S. military bases are not transferred but are restored to the people of Okinawa.
There are huge military bases also in Hawai'i. So, many residents in Hawai'i, I hope, would sympathize with us and our fear of the existence of military bases on our small island.
Such sympathy and alignment of the people all over the world will surely empower our movement to try to solve the problem. Through this case, I would like the people in Hawai'i to reconsider the existence of the U.S. forces in a foreign country and to know how much they endanger people living there.
Here we find numerous mentions of possible harm that the proposed increases of military presence to Guam will bring or make more likely. Crashes, accidents. social crimes, environmental problems. The international media has developed a frame of local resistance and protest to the American military presence in Okinawa, but has yet to for Guam.
The person who is key in managing this move and potentially mitigating any damage that it will cause is Guam's Non-voting Delegate, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo. Sadly for Guam and its interests, her management style is very much in the same vein of the optimistic painfully clueless Bush vision which led to the terrible occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. Bordallo is acting very much like Kristol, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Bush who in the prelude to the 2003 invasion, helped facilitate a national collective dream session, where the worst thing which could happen from the Iraq War would be troops drowning to pools of flowers that had been hurled at their feet.
Bordallo admits to only two potential problems with the proposed military increases to Guam, and one of them is Guam's fault. The first is that Guam will not be prepared to take advantage of all the fantastic stuff that is coming economically, and so when all the cash is dropped out of the sky above every bar and strip club in Tumon, we will screw everything up by not having enough construction workers to grab it all. The second issue is one discussed in the recently relased mini-documentary Maga'haga, which can be found in two parts on Youtube.
The documentary covers a sort of confrontation that took place last when when Madeleine Bordallo and another non-voting delegate, Donna Christensen from the Virgin Islands were in Guam and met with members of the women's group Fuetsan Famalao'an. How will the military increase affect the women of Guam, who will in multiple ways be forced to shoulder an increased social burden and danger, such as the threat of sexual violence, which the Marine Corps presence in Okinawa has become synonymous with.
In meetings with community groups and leaders, this is the only issue that Bordallo will admit to which she is worried about, but which she quickly promises to do everything to solve or deal with. If the way the military has dealt with this issue in the past is any indication of how they will deal with it in the future, then Bordallo has some more explaining to do. Curfews, base lock downs and restricting the movements of soldiers to keep them on the base has generally been the military's methods in the past of keeping these things from happening. If this is what the military will also do in Guam to keep instances of sexual violence down, then how is Guam's economy gonna get all that precious salape' when all the soldiers are stuck on base?
The visibility of this issue, sexual violence and rape which will most likely increase because of the increased military presence and also simply the increased population of Guam is very misleading. This sort of damage which the military can cause is always perceived as something which is incoming, on its way, which we will need to protect ourselves (and our women) from. First of all, there is a gender and power issue here which I won't get in to, but needless to say there is something very problematic when people on Guam articulate their resistance to the military and its presence through the "defense of women" or through an assumed or implicit weakness of Guam's women. Some day I'm sure I'll discuss this in more depth, i nobia-hu and I have discussed possibly writing something about it.
Second, the looming threat of the rapes which will come, the damages which will be brought to Guam by the military, keep us from recognizing or perceiving the damages that have long taken place and continue to threaten our lives right now. Researchers are making the links between the military presence on Guam, and the damage its caused to the island's environment and the poor health of Chamorros. In anticipation of the coming military, property prices are rising and the cost of living is following, and those who are barely hanging on economically will soon find themselves in even worse shape. Social infrastructure and utilities such as sewage, power, water and roads are all in danger of overuse or being overwhelmed by the population increases that will come with the military buildup, and it is very likely that the Government of Guam will be the one who ends up paying for these impacts.
The letter to the editor that I pasted here spends a lot of time talking about two crashes which took place in Okinawa, one in 1959 which killed 17 people and injured more than 100 more. In the past year, Guam has had its own share of crashes, and this makes me wonder if we should start preparing for this worst as well?
I've pasted below, articles on the crashes or accidents involving military aircraft that have taken place over the past year.
B-1 bomber collides with two vehicles
By Duane M. George
Pacific Daily News
Mar 8, 2008
Around noon yesterday, a B-1 bomber declared an in-flight emergency shortly after taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, according to Capt. Joel Stark, acting chief of public affairs.
The plane returned to Andersen and landed safely. The crew members exited the plane, which then rolled into two emergency vehicles that were on the runway, Stark said.
No one was hurt in the accident.
"A panel of officers will investigate the incident," Stark said. Stark said in-flight emergencies can be declared for a number of reasons,but it was unclear what the nature of the emergency was as of yesterday. "Many times it's just a prudent safety precaution," Stark said.
The B-1 bomber was in transit from an air show in Singapore, Stark said.It is based out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
By Stephanie Godlewski
Pacific Daily News
All four crew members who ejected from an EA-6B Prowler Tuesday afternoon are now out of the hospital.
The crew ejected and the plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ritidian Point around 4 p.m. Tuesday. The men were rescued by HSC-25 helicopters about a half an hour after they ejected. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Guam Fire Department also responded to the incident and participated in the rescue operation.
All four crew members were transported to the Naval Hospital. Three crew members were treated and released as of yesterday morning. The last member was checked out during the day yesterday, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Donnell Evans.
The crew ranged in age from 27 to 41, but it is unlikely that their names will be released, Evans said.
According to the Web site aerospaceweb.org, the EA-6B costs around $52 million dollars. According to the manufacturer, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, the Navy has been purchasing the planes since 1972, when they were deployed to Southeast Asia. Since that time, the military has continued to buy the planes and upgrades. The Prowler has been used in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Evans said the next step will be an investigation into the cause of the crash. There has been no word yet as to whether the investigation will involve attempting to retrieve the wreckage.
The last military aviation crash on Guam -- when a HSC-25 helicopter crashed in the Fena Reservoir -- was classified as a Navy safety mishap investigation. There has still not been any information released on the results of that investigation.
The crash classification for the Prowler incident has not yet been released by Navy officials.
B-2 stealth bomber crashes on Guam
Two pilots eject safely in first crash for bomber, Air Force says
Feb. 23, 2008
HAGATNA, Guam - A B-2 stealth bomber plunged to the ground shortly after taking off from an air base in Guam on Saturday, the first time one has crashed, but both pilots ejected safely, Air Force officials said.
The aircraft was taking off with three others on their last flight out of Guam after a four-month deployment, part of a continuous U.S. bomber presence in the western Pacific. After the crash, the other three bombers were being kept on Guam, said Maj. Eric Hilliard at Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii.
At least one B-2 bomber had taken off safely from Andersen Air Force Base but was brought back when another aircraft plunged to the ground.
There were no injuries on the ground or damage to buildings, and no munitions were on board. Each B-2 bomber costs about $1.2 billion to build.
Thick, black smoke could be seen billowing from the wreckage at Andersen, said Jeanne Ward, a resident in the northern village of Yigo who was on the base visiting her husband.
Ward said she didn't witness the crash but noticed a rising plume of smoke behind the base's air control tower.
She said crowds began to gather as emergency vehicles arrived. "Everybody was on their cell phones, and the first thing everyone wanted to know was did the pilots make it out in time," she said.
The Air Force, without identifying the pilots, said one was medically evaluated and released, and the other was in stable condition at Guam Naval Hospital.
A board of officers will investigate what caused the bat-like aircraft to crash at 10:30 a.m., shortly after taking off from a runway. It was the first crash of a B-2 bomber, said Capt. Sheila Johnston, a spokeswoman for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
All 21 stealth bombers are based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but the Air Force has been rotating several of them through Guam since 2004, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers.
The rotations are designed to boost the U.S. security presence in the Asia-Pacific region while other U.S. forces diverted to fight in the Middle East.
The B-2 was first publicly displayed in 1988 and took its first flight a year later. The first bomber was delivered to Whiteman in 1993.
The bombers on Guam were scheduled to return to Missouri now that six B-52s from the 96th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., have arrived to replace them.
The distinctive B-2 is described as a "multi-role bomber" that blends stealth technology with a highly efficient aerodynamic design. It is able to deliver large payloads at great range and has been used in combat over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The accident occurred 11 days after a Navy plane crashed into the ocean about 20 miles northeast of Guam's Ritidian Point. Four aircrew members ejected from the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft and were rescued by helicopter.
Guam is a U.S. territory 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Helicopter Sea Combat - 25
Navy helicopter crashes in Fena
One dead, three injured in crash
By Dionesis Tamondong
Pacific Daily News
Sept. 25, 2007
A Navy helicopter crashed into Fena Reservoir last night, killing one of four crew members on board.
Rescue units from the Navy and Guam Fire Department responded to the 911 call, which was made by officials at the Guam airport's flight control tower at 10:17 p.m., said GFD spokesman Firefighter Angel Llagas.
A Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 aircraft that was conducting a training mission crashed in the lake at the Naval Magazine Area in Santa Rita, said Navy spokesman Lt. Donnell Evans. Information on how or why the helicopter crashed was unavailable last night.
Three crew members were rescued and transported to Naval Hospital around 10:40 p.m. while rescue units continued to search for the fourth person late last night. Evans said one crew member sustained a broken arm while two others were treated for minor injuries.
The body of the fourth crew member was recovered just after midnight, Llagas said. Their identities are not being released at this time.
The Fena Reservoir is located within Naval property and is used as a water source for the Navy's water distribution system, according to Pacific Daily News files.
HSC-25 is the Navy’s only forward deployed vertical replenishment squadron and provides a variety of services, including re-supplying deployed ships, 24-hour search and rescue and medical evacuation services for Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.
2 F/A - 18 Hornets
Fighter jets collide during training mission
by Sabrina Salas Matanane ,
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Two fighter jets collided while in mid-air Saturday evening over the Western Pacific Ocean. The jets were the F/A-18 Hornets assigned to the Strike Fighter Squadron 146 and the Carrier Air Wing 9 aboard the USS John C. Stennis. The collision happened at approximately 8pm while the Hornets were conducting and air defense training mission.
The jets were able to continue flying after the collision and in fact landed safely at Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo. The pilots are both reported to be in good condition. The Stennis group is transiting the Western Pacific to participate in the Valiant Shield exercises that begin today off of Guam's shores. The cause of the collision is currently under investigation.
F/A 18C Hornet
Navy jet crashes into sea
Pilot ejects, is rescued 400 miles southeast of Guam
By Eric Palacios
Pacific Daily News
Article published Aug 1, 2007
The pilot of an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 195 is safe today after his jet crashed at sea Monday night during a training mission from USS Kitty Hawk, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet.
The pilot ejected and was safely recovered by a U.S. Navy helicopter shortly after the incident, which occurred about 400 miles southeast of Guam.
"He was treated by medical professionals for injuries that were non-life threatening," the U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs Office said via telephone from Hawaii.
The aircraft was conducting routine training at the time of the crash, around 9 p.m., the 7th Fleet public affairs officer said.
The pilot's name is not being released and the Navy is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the crash. The F/A-18C is a single-seat fighter-and-attack aircraft. The squadron operates from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, and is embarked on Kitty Hawk.
The Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group is on its summer deployment in the western Pacific Ocean and is expected to take part in the upcoming Valiant Shield exercises with other U.S. forces and partners throughout Australia and Asia later this month.
The carrier made a port visit to Guam in June and is the U.S. Navy's lone overseas-based aircraft carrier. The carrier is homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.
The Kitty Hawk strike group is the U.S. Navy's largest and includes the carrier, seven ships of Destroyer Squadron 15, two Aegis weapons-system-equipped guided-missile cruisers and CVW 5, according to the Navy. $35M price tag
The jet that crashed at sea Monday night had an estimated $35 million price tag in 2003. The primary users of the jet are the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Spanish Air Force.
The jets are manufactured by McDonnell Douglas/Boeing Northrop and designed by McDonnell Douglas. They were first introduced Jan. 7, 1983, and 1,458 of the Hornets were built. Valiant Shield '06
In June 2006, the island and its waters played a major role in an impressive display of American power that was observed by a Chinese delegation.
Valiant Shield was the largest gathering of aircraft carriers in the Pacific since the Vietnam War.
The exercise brought together more than 20,000 personnel, three carriers, more than 20 ships and more than 200 aircraft.
The exercise also served as a diplomatic bridge between U.S. officials and the 10-member Chinese delegation of politicians and military commanders.
Guam has been key to the U.S. approach to dealing with China. The U.S. approach is centered on turning a potential foe into a friend.