The Joint Region Marianas relationship with Guam and its people is very special and vitally significant. Our shared interests in taking care of our island community is the bedrock of our common bond. Furthermore, this sense of inafa mao’lek is the impetus for a deeper mutual understanding of our diverse military and civilian populations and ultimately the foundation for stronger relationships between them.

Admittedly, no relationship is perfect. We have our challenges, and there will sometimes be differences in priorities and missions. However, as we embark on new endeavors and initiatives in the defense of our island, region and nation, we must always keep in mind open dialogue, shared trust and mutual respect remain crucial to our ability to forge a path together to ensure a free, safe and thriving Guam.

To that end, JRM will continue to plan and execute the Marine Corps relocation to Guam in a responsible, collaborative and transparent manner, and we are committed to the same for any future military growth. We understand that our actions will speak volumes in terms of seeking solutions for the entire community. We remain completely engaged and dedicated to fighting "from Guam and for Guam" in an effort to fulfill our mission to defend a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Marine Corps realignment to Guam, archaeological discoveries during construction

On behalf of the Department of Defense, JRM, in partnership with the government of Guam and several local community and cultural organizations, established the 2011 Programmatic Agreement to protect cultural resources during the Marine Corps relocation.

Under this PA, and consistent with federal laws which protect cultural and historic resources, the DoD consults with the Guam State Historic Preservation Officer and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to ensure discoveries undergo rigorous archaeological study and that known or new historic and prehistoric sites are properly managed.

Recognizing that no preconstruction survey can be 100% definitive in its identification of archaeological sites, the DoD and government of Guam established an archaeological monitoring process, which takes place before any vegetation and preconstruction clearing, to provide further assurances that any previously unknown sites would be detected, analyzed, reported and appropriately addressed.

Following dispute-resolution agreements with SHPO in 2018 and 2020, the Navy implemented additional monitoring requirements on five large projects, including two firing ranges, the main cantonment area of the base, water wells and the urban combat training complex.

The DoD team of archaeologists carefully records locations of all archaeological discoveries throughout Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz. However, the confidentiality provisions in the National Park Service Archaeological Resources Protection Act preclude us from releasing all of the related information to the public. The law specifically requires the protection of the information and locations of archaeological resources in order to avoid any risk of harm to those resources. This is not to hide heritage from the public, but to preserve heritage and ensure those without proper archeological training do not harm the sites.

We collaborate daily with the SHPO’s office to maintain a fine balance between sharing cultural information with the community and upholding the regulations and laws designed to protect sensitive cultural resources. As a result, many significant cultural resources have been preserved in place and/or avoided during the planning phase.

While the preference is to preserve sites and resources in place, in the event that avoidance is not possible, the 2011 PA has a provision that allows data recovery as a standard mitigation in coordination with the SHPO. The careful and meticulous archaeological work allows us to permanently record the important details and physical evidence of Guam's history to share with the public and our future generations.

Investing in environmentally responsible construction

The DoD has implemented protective actions to safeguard the island’s precious natural resources. For example, in order to address the concerns regarding the possibility of groundwater contamination from the construction and operation of the multipurpose machine gun range, the DoD has developed a strict set of environmental monitoring and range procedures. Included in the plans for the construction of the range complex are multiple-celled ponding basin systems approved by Guam EPA that will ensure removal of pollutants such as phosphorus, nitrogen and metals, including lead. The DoD's Office of Economic Adjustment also awarded a $3.7 million grant to Guam Waterworks Authority to expand the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer's monitoring network.

Additionally, the DoD has awarded nearly $4 million toward habitat preservation projects on Guam through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program. The program allows the DoD to partner with willing landowners to preserve property for natural and cultural resources.

We are thankful for Guam and its people for supporting our troops and the national security mission. Your support is important to sustaining and growing the military’s capabilities to meet the unexpected, defend this region, uphold our nation’s ideals and be counted amongst the most ready and capable forces of the United States. Biba Guam!

Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson is commander of Joint Region Marianas.


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