ONE of the truly distressing memories of the Vietnam War that many in Guam retain is of American deaths due to so-called "friendly fire."
This is not the friendly fire of accidentally dropping an artillery round in the middle of your own troops, but, plain and simple, shooting your sergeant or commanding officer in the back over a dispute.
It’s a horrible reality in any war and these days, such things don’t remain secrets among combat veterans.
This is to say that I believe we are wasting vast amounts of energy seeking to throw someone, anyone in Guam under the bus for decisions to slow the Guam military buildup. And the "friendlies" in this case are the people who knocked themselves out to ask the right questions and push the policy decisions that would make the buildup a true "win-win" for Guam.
Long after the buildup was announced, the people of Guam got a look at the projected numbers for it, as did Gov. Camacho, the only Guam official being consulted by the Pentagon at the time. Too large and too quick, the governor thought, recommending a smaller number of Marines be sent to Guam over a longer number of years. A consensus of public commenters agreed as well and that appears to be the true roots of the present downsized buildup.
Meanwhile, voters on the mainland were electing a House of Representatives whose members in some cases seemed uncertain of where Guam was or why taxpayers should fund sending the Marines there.
In Guam in 2010, legislators were recalling the many promises made in earlier stages of the buildup, resulting in a series of unanimous resolutions expressing Guam’s needs and requirements to proceed, all bearing the signatures of Sens. Eddie Calvo and Ray Tenorio.
But there were few responses from Washington; and Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work and then-Assistant Secretary Jackalyne Pfannenstiel may have thought they were in combat when they met with Guam legislators on Jan. 21, 2011. Some of what they heard:
Sen. Chris Duenas: “It’s those broken promises and that mistrust and everything that’s been put on the table here today I think is where we need to go to regain that trust as we negotiate going forward. And the requests that have been put before you and as we start knocking these things down, one at a time, we’ll continue to build that trust I believe.”
Sen. Mana Silva Taijeron: “When we were having our town meetings you were hearing all of these same concerns that we are laying before you right now. So why is it now that you come to the table and say that you want to address these issues? Why now? Why should we as a body sit before you and believe what you’re saying this time? We’ve said these same things before.”
Sen. Frank Blas Jr.: “But, it’s like I’m listening to a record, a broken record. We’ve been talking about this over and over and over again. And I appreciate that you come out here so that you can provide the message again, but it comes down to, where are the deliverables? As my good Sen. Respicio said: 'Where are the deliverables?'”
If we start shooting at each other over the buildup, and politicize it, the only winners will be those in Washington D.C. who wish to save money by killing the buildup.
I will continue to work with federal, defense and local officials on the buildup, and I’ll continue to advocate for the best interests of all people who call Guam home – military and civilian.
Please visit my office to review our Buildup Committee documents and work. We’re open to anyone to share ideas, concerns and recommendations.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com.