Following a barrage of negative social media comments on a planed underwater detonation exercise in Apra Harbor, Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas commander, during a recent press conference at the Apra Overlook, assured that the planned training will have no adverse effects.
Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas commander,met with the Guam Legislature prior to the press conference. According to Chatfield, the senators “understood the importance of the exercise."
Guam senators recently introduced a resolution urging the Department of Defense to cease the use of Guam’s land and waters as a training ground for the detonation of explosives. Resolution No. 103-34 was prompted by the announcement of the detonation exercise, originally scheduled for late April. The Coast Guard said it could not solicit public comments due to time constraints.
Chatfield said the Navy's EOD Mobile Unit 5 will be conducting the exercise. She said this is the same unit that responds to unexploded ordinance "found on Guam last year 152 times." The unit will be detonating around four 1.25 lb charges which will be placed next to a fake mine in the harbor. She said this simulates real world exercise and it is a vital part of their training mission.
"The exercise is planned to be conducted in a portion of outer Apra Harbor and it is on sandy flats.I want you all to understand that this is the training that we regularly conduct. This type of training takes place wherever EOD units are stationed, including Hawaii, San Diego, and thoughout the continental United States. We have done training like that here on Guam 22 times in the last three years and we’ve had no adverse effects.
"EOD technicians tell me that there is barely a ripple on the surface of the water. Still, safety of marine life, human life, and environmental concerns are at the forefront every single time that we train. That is the reason for the coast guard announcement in the Federal Register and the notice to mariners that we post," Chatfield said.
"The Navy Detonation Underwater exercise drew a lot of negative publicity on social media. I understand why. The announcement of the training was posted alongside of a photo of a 10,000 lb pound exploding alongside a ship. It looked destructive, inconsiderate of Guam and our ecosystem, and unlike any training that the Navy conducted in Apra Harbor. That specific photo was of a ship shock trial. It is an event that happened once in a ship class to see what type of damage it would experience with that kind of an explosion," Chatfield said.
The underwater exercise has been moved to May 18.