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First day of live-fire testing on Guam facing protests

Updated: Sep 24, 2023


By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The Marines' first live-fire testing and calibration at Northwest Field on Monday will be greeted with protests from Ritidian landowners.


A series of tests will be conducted throughout October and will continue in December.


"Their decision to move forward with this firing range project is an affront to our human right to life; to clean drinking water; and our sacred obligation as Chamorro people to safeguard our homeland for future generations," the Coalition Hita Litekyan said in a statement.


"Moreover, the Navy’s own environmental study determined a firing range at Tailalo over Litekyan would cause the most harm out of all five location options. The DoD moved forward anyway," the coalition said.

Where: Firing Range Primary Gate (at the turn leading to Ritidian Overlook) 
When: Sept. 25 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

The coalition said the protest is intended to "remind the Department of Defense that our island has never consented to their U.S. Marine Live Fire Training Range Complex proposal. We are still here and we are not going anywhere."


The U.S. Marine Corps Camp Blaz last week said the first, live-fire activity at the live-fire training complex "will trigger the establishment of a safety buffer area to ensure public safety while the ranges are in use."


Military officials said the calibration and testing are meticulous. "After each shot, the system will be adjusted to display the exact location the shot hit on the target," they said. " Approximately five marksmen will calibrate 50 targets on the Known Distance Rifle Range and 25 targets on the Modified Record of Fire Range. Both of those ranges are used by Marines for annual rifle qualification requirements."


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“We have been loud and clear, but we are still not being heard. We stand alongside dozens of organizations in Guam and the Marianas, calling on the community to come together to protect our heritage, our water, our land, and future generations,” said Maria Hernandez May, a Litekyan descendent.

The construction of a firing range complex on Guam has been a sore spot between the military and the civilian community since it was first proposed in 2005. The project is part of the Department of Defense's $12-billion military buildup on Guam.

"More than 30,000 signatures have been signed across petitions; two passed resolutions calling for a pause on construction; countless meetings; public hearings; protests and the Department of Defense has chosen to move forward at full speed, ignoring the outcry of our people," the coalition said. "900 football fields of our land in Guåhan have been cleared for the military buildup. Seven million bullets per year are projected to be shot above our island’s primary source for drinking water, the northern Guam lens aquifer," the statement added.


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Protesters said the habitat of 15 endangered native species is being threatened by this range complex, which also blocks access to some of the island's best waters for fishing, traditional medicinal plants, Chamoru ancestral lands, and latte and burial sites.


"As descendants of Ritidian original landowners, Hita Litekyan also reminds the Department of Defense that Ritidian lands were stolen – seized through force, deceit, and theft in the 60s," the coalition said.


"Sixty years later, we continue to contest the illegal occupation of our ancestral land Ritidian. We do not consent to our land being used for this firing range complex. Justice must be served and this historical injustice of illegal land taking must be reversed," the statement added.

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