Admiral Chatfield at the October public hearing
Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Admiral Chatfield has re-stated her commitment to keep local leaders and community members informed about progress in the ongoing Guam military buildup which will eventually bring thousands of U.S. Marines and their dependents from from Okinawa to Guam.
Admiral Chatfield wrote to Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., who chaired an October 'roundtable' hearing to air public complaints about this long running and often controversial enterprise, assuring him that ever since its conclusion, her staff has been developing responses to the concerns and issues raised by those in attendance.
"I was moved by the sincerity and genuine emotion of many of the speakers and I was reminded of the military's resolve to defend my fellow American's freedom and way of life," Admiral Chatfield wrote. "These freedoms include the right of Guamanians to speak freely on sensitive topics such as land disputes, cultural identity, and self-governance. These topics are outside the military's jurisdiction and we cannot have positions on such matters, but [Joint Region Marianas] seeks to understand the sentiments and sensitivities of our community."
Chatfield emphasized, as she did during the hearing, that the eventual location of the range was based on considerable public input.
"The 2015 decision selecting Northwest Field as the site for the LFTRC took into account that it is entirely on the federal footprint, does not require significant road construction in undeveloped areas, is within close proximity to the Marine Corps base and avoids significant noise impacts on residential areas. Overwhelming public feedback at the time of the decision demanded no land acquisition, avoidance of Pagat and minimizing noise and traffic impacts to the broader community."
And Chatfield re-emphasized military respect for local sensibilities about the impact of the buildup on Guam.
"The military respects the indigenous Chamorro people as well as the rich culture and traditions that make Guam a special place. We recognize the deep and abiding affinity of Guam's people to ancient villages and the importance of such sites to island culture. The locally revered remnants of the ancient village at the Ritidian Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge will remain symbols of permanence, cultural integrity and strength; this ancient habitation strewn with latte will be unaffected by the construction of the Live Fire Training Range Complex (LFTRC) at the Northwest Field plateau."
In response, Sen. Aguon said: "I would like to thank Admiral Chatfield and her team of Subject Matter Experts for their time and effort in compiling the information and resources provided in response to stakeholder questions. I remain committed to a collaborative partnership with Joint Region Marianas towards a mutually-beneficial buildup reflective of the 'One Guam' initiative."