The video is a short documentary on the American military presence in Guam, and how current shifts in power and force are bringing back the bases on the island, and how these changes are impacting life on the island.
China’s military modernization and growth in strength is challenging the balance of power in the Pacific. In response, the United States, which has been a strong military presence on the island of Guam, is shifting tens of thousands of servicemen and women to this territory, transforming it into a permanent military base and fortress.
The carrier USS Stennis, which has been on that side of the Pacific for half a century now, sees pilots taking off every day for missions over the Pacific under Operation Valiant Shield. This operation is described by the Stennis’ Commanding Officer, Capt. Bradley Johanson, as a demonstration of the USA’s presence in the area. While no one on the carrier openly talks about it, there was a deployment of 30 warships and several hundred combat aircraft, aimed at making sure China takes notice.
Washington D.C. is currently working to turn Guam into a modern fortress. US Navy Captain Robert Lee says that this is the largest transfer of forces in the history of the military, costing an estimated $15 billion. 15,000 workers are set to arrive to begin building the base, and some 8,000 US Marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan are coming in. Japan is funding $6 billion for the completion of the base.
Guam, being on the “edge” of the USA’s power presence, is an important strategic and tactical location, which is why the US has kept it as one of its territories, compared to other surrounding independent Micronesian islands. The Americans came into Guam in 1898 and aside from a few years of Japanese occupation during World War II, have never left.
There are around 170,000 people in Guam, which is only two-thirds the size of Singapore, composed of Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans, and the indigenous Chamorro Nation. Guam’s local population has long accepted that the military is a part of their way of life. Residents of Guam are US citizens, except that they cannot vote in the presidential elections. Most of them have either served in the military or have family members currently serving, and have lost loved ones to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other countries.
The military and tourism are two of Guam’s biggest income generators, as Guam is less than 4 hours away from Tokyo. With a decline in tourist numbers however, Guam now looks to this new base as economic salvation. Not everyone agrees, though.
Local Chamorro advocates are angry about the transfer and its social and ecological implications on Guam. Washington has been facing a hard battle among locals, resulting in the first Congressional hearings on the island since the 1970s. Madeleine Bordallo, Democratic congresswoman and representative to Guam, has been in talks with local politicians regarding the base.
The US continues its show of power, with the Navy and Air Force now its primary moving arms. The base is meant to be a deterrent – essentially preparing for war to prevent a war. Nothing seems to be stopping this project from moving forward, and it’s only a matter of time before Guam, which has been the Pacific base in previous wars, becomes a US military stronghold once again.