Lynn: Guam Tours Provide Insight, Perspective
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, July 29, 2010 Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said a series of tours he’d taken on and above the island of Guam gave him broader insight into the challenges that lie ahead for that U.S. territory, as well as an appreciation of the historical significance of the region.
“It’s very helpful to see the geography,” Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home from Guam. “These are relatively small islands and understanding the limits and capacity of the island is very important. It’s difficult to do that without putting your eyes on location.”
The secretary toured Guam and several of its neighboring islands by helicopter and land over the course of his two-day visit. His aim was to better understand the impacts of an upcoming troop increase. About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement with Japan.
An aerial tour of Guam on a Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter offered Lynn a bird’s-eye view of the overall challenges regarding the troop realignment. Lynn saw firsthand the sites that will be impacted by new facilities and training ranges as the military prepares for the troop increase.
The flying tour took Lynn over lush, green jungles, small communities and beachside resorts, all surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of turquoise waters. Guam is known for its tourist industry, and is particularly popular among people from Japan, Korea and China.
Yesterday, Lynn said he hopes the troop realignment will offer an economic boost to the people of Guam. The Japanese government will finance $740 million of infrastructure projects, he said yesterday in a speech at the University of Guam, and President Barack Obama has requested congressional authority for the Defense Department to fund an upgrade to Guam’s only commercial port.
“Together with matching funds from the Department of Agriculture, we will be making a $100 million investment in the port,” Lynn said. Other funds will be funneled into Guam’s road system, and groundwork is being laid for improvements to utilities, schools, health care, public safety and other needs. To do so, the nation will “draw on Guam’s expertise to the fullest,” he said, offering new opportunities for Guam’s businesses and citizens.
While Guam will house a small-arms firing range, the military is looking to islands near Guam to accommodate other Marine training needs. Lynn traveled about 150 miles southeast to Saipan to meet with Fitial Benigno, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to discuss possibilities for future cooperative efforts.
After a quick helicopter ride, Lynn stopped briefly in Tinian, about five miles southwest of Saipan, where he met with the mayor and visited the bomb pit that housed the first atomic bomb ever to be used in combat, nicknamed “Little Boy.” This bomb was loaded aboard the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress bomber piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets Jr., on Aug. 5, 1945, and then dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, the next day.
Don Farrall, who briefed Lynn on the bomb pit, recalled when Tibbets was invited to return to Tinian to mark the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Saipan and Tinian.
Tinian was a protectorate of Japan after World War I and was captured by the United States during World War II in July 1944, after which the island became the busiest airbase of the war. Saipan was governed by the Japanese since World War I, and on June 15, 1944, U.S. Marines landed and fought a three-week battle to take it from the Japanese.
Lynn said it was interesting “to see these islands that played such a large role in our history in World War II.”
Back on Guam, Lynn visited Andersen Air Force Base and the U.S. Naval Base.
At Andersen, Lynn toured a cavernous hangar that will eventually house three Global Hawk RQ4 remotely piloted aircraft. In preparation for this new mission, personnel began arriving in 2009, a base spokesman said, and the Air Combat Command’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 9th Operations Group, Detachment 3, is expected to be operational by early 2011. Air Combat Command pilots will launch and recover the aircraft from Andersen, the spokesman said, while the mission control element will take place at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
At the naval base, Lynn took time thank the sailors of Submarine Squadron 15 for their service and sacrifice, extending his gratitude to all military members. Their service in the face of difficult challenges doesn’t go unnoticed, he told them.
“The performance in that difficulty is recognized,” he said. “It’s recognized in the department, recognized by [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates, recognized by Congress and recognized by President [Barack] Obama.”
Overall, the tours offered a helpful, firsthand look, Lynn said.
“The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides,” he said. “I think we got a very full plate in those two days.”