A couple weeks ago, a respected and old family friend, Clifford Guzman, called me and asked if I could fill in for him as the event moderator at the 2022 Programmatic Agreement (PA) Workshop held at the Guam Museum. With slight hesitation (only because I have been out of practice for these types of events), I agreed. I wasn't afraid of the subject matter. As a matter of fact, I was pleased that I would be revisiting the PA which then-Gov. Eddie Calvo signed with the legal assistance of Arthur Clark, as I served as Calvo’s chief of staff.
Throughout the two-day workshop, I recalled events circa January 2011: the first month in office for the newly elected Calvo-Tenorio administration. At the time, the proposed relocation of Marines from Okinawa had been cause for major concerns from the community - most notably from then-Sens. Judith Guthertz and Rory Respicio. At the time that Gov. Calvo would be attending his first National Governors Association meeting in January 2011, the military brass on Guam invited Gov. Calvo and his entourage to visit the Marine Corps firing range in Quantico, Virginia.
In a gesture of bipartisanship, Gov. Calvo invited both Guthertz and Respicio, along with Frank Blas Jr. from the Guam Legislature, to see firsthand an example of what the U.S. military had in mind for Guam.
What we saw was impressive: Aside from a high-tech control center identifying ranges which were hot and which were vacant, we saw wild turkeys as we headed towards the firing range (I thought to myself: Is this staged?). We also drove by a couple of family burial plots - fenced in, and manicured perfectly. Exactly what you would expect from the U.S. Department of Defense. Of course, there was the range itself: fully automated and designed to the tee for Marines. Later on, in our first term, I was invited by Craig Weldon of the Marine Forward Pacific unit in Hawaii in 2012 to visit the Ewa Beach USMC firing range on Oahu. At that firing range, there were tens of thousands of birds nesting as well.
I could not believe my eyes, the live birds flying downrange from the firing targets.
Why does my experience matter? Because during this workshop, I witnessed the expertise and professionalism by various subject matter experts: career DoD employees and contractors. I witnessed the commitment and passion of elected officials such as Speaker Therese Terlaje and Sen. Sabina Perez. Collectively, the two signatories of the 2011 PA went back and forth on the details of the archaeological finds; the significance of the Litekyan/Ritidian areas; the disruption of the ancient burial sites. Etc., etc., etc.
It was an emotional discourse to be sure; as it should be. Sen. Perez was so upset about some of the processes that she suggested that this 2011 PA be replaced with a new agreement. But, ultimately, as most things in life turn out, there has to be results as agreed to by both parties of the 2011 PA.
My takeaways: The people of Guam can rest assured that Speaker Terlaje and Sen. Perez have your backs. These two remind me of two legislators on the other side of the aisle (Joanne Brown and Telo Taitague) in how they are great with uncovering what’s important regardless of criticism and they press as hard as is needed. That Patrick Lujan and his SHPO staff will also protect and defend our interests. Likewise, the U.S. military has a mission: they will defend their flag as only the best military group in the world can. And they will also take extra caution to handle the remains of our ancestors and wildlife similar to what I saw in Quantico, Virginia and Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Invariably, in contentious matters such as a military relocation to Guam, there are pros and cons and we need to resolve these differences. One thing is certain: GovGuam has demonstrated that we struggle to maintain our assets – try as we may.
Think GMH buildings. Think public school buildings. Now recall U.S. military installations and assets. Think B-52s. Think DoDEA schools. Perhaps the U.S. military will be able to preserve and protect Guam’s historical and natural resources better than we give them credit.
Franklin Arriola is a business owner and consultant for over 30 years and served as chief of staff to former Gov. Eddie Calvo from 2011-2015.