The U.S. Department of Defense’s planned military buildup in the region has put the CNMI community in a quandary, with some supporting military activities on Tinian and Pagan and some opposing it.
One of the islands’ most respected citizens and business leaders, David “Uncle Dave” M. Sablan, has thrown his full support behind the plan and is asking the CNMI’s leaders and community to follow suit.
Everybody already knows about Sablan’s ordeal during World War II and how he survived the war as a 12-year-old boy living in a cave in Marpi.
Despite having a front-row seat on the chaos and destruction the Pacific war brought to the islands, Sablan is encouraging the CNMI and its leaders to give as much as possible a favorable consideration to the military’s request to use Tinian and Pagan for live-fire training.
“The military is not doing anything that would jeopardize the livelihood of the people here in the CNMI. I think it is very important that we do the best we can to accommodate the military’s needs, because they have a mission to fulfill and that mission is to defend the U.S and its territories and we are a part of that,” he said.
“I strongly urge that the leaders of the CNMI to give it a very serious consideration…because it has taken them roughly four to five years to reach their final decision on what they want to do from the standpoint of training for their own people that are capable of maintaining a high standard of military posture, not only the U.S but also because we are on the ‘firing range’ here,” he added.
What he means is that the CNMI is near Southeast Asia and the CNMI is in the Pacific Ocean, inevitably in the crosshairs of America’s enemies if war breaks out.
“All the sovereign nations are roughly in these areas such as China and North Korea. These people look at the CNMI as a very, very small minute area that they, in my own opinion, will not hesitate to do the wrong ‘test’ on and it is dangerous,” said Sablan.
He said he is not trying to scare the community but is merely being practical, the CNMI being a U.S territory and could be a possible target if any war were to break out.
“I am just giving my feeling because I don’t want to see our people suffer through another war. I think these people are being very reasonable, saying ‘Let us train our people here locally’ because this is a territory of the U.S and the training that we accommodate for the military to do here is going to be very beneficial to us because our own people are members of the military,” he said.
“We need them to train, so if there was ever a war and our own people who are members of the military go out there and fight, they need to come back alive and not in a casket. This is my biggest concern.”
Sablan conceded there are certain things the military is not able to share with the CNMI at this point.
“They happen to know the danger that we face here in the CNMI as well as Guam. They are basically training to prevent those from happening. How many times do we see on media North Korea threatening to shoot a missile? We’re very vulnerable,” he said.
“That is why I am in full support of the military to train here so that when the need for defending the CNMI comes, the military is well-suited and fits perfectly for that matter. That is part of the sacrifices that we in the CNMI should seriously consider.”
Sablan recalled that when he was 12 years old in the morning of June 10, 1944, he and his older brother were getting ready to go visit their Japanese military friends. They saw planes in the skies involved in an aerial fight; bombs were exploding all over Saipan and planes crashing.
“I have been through WWII and have seen and lived through it. The military has knowledge of what they’re doing so we should be supportive of that.”