Military: Pagan would be training area, not bombing range

Petition against military activity reaches over 113K signatures

Contrary to what those opposed to the U.S. Department of Defense’s proposed military activity in the CNMI are saying, Marine Corps Forces Pacific executive director Craig B. Whelden clarified that Pagan would be used as a training area and not a bombing range.

He added that, “it’s a false characterization to liken the military’s use of Pagan to Farallon de Mendenilla, Vieques, or Ko’olawe”—islands in the CNMI, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, respectively, that were used by the military as bombing ranges.

“We have demonstrated in many locations around the world how the Department of Defense is a good steward of the environment. We would be so at Pagan as well,” Whelden said.

His assurance comes after the electronic petition drive launched to galvanize opposition to the military’s plan on Pagan and Tinian is said to have reached 113,821 signatures as of yesterday, June 23, 2015.

The MARFORPAC executive director said the CNMI has nothing to worry about as far as the military bombing Pagan is concerned.

He said the military’s preferred alternative, published in the CNMI Joint Military Training Plan Environmental Impact Statement draft, dropped the live-fire area in the middle of Pagan.

“Why did we do this? [It’s] because we listened to the people about impacts to the environment. We have also consistently said that the high hazard impact area would be limited to the volcanic area in the north, thereby protecting and preserving fauna and flora in the isthmus and in the south,” he said.

Whelden said that the military would look for opportunities for co-existence during the limited 16 weeks per year that the military would be on Pagan.

“We need an understanding of what the CNMI concerns are; as well as the CNMI’s vision for Pagan; then—through dialogue—the DoD can determine how those might be addressed in ways that could be beneficial for both sides,” he said.

“My team is meeting with the Department of Public Lands and the Commonwealth Ports Authority this week to discuss the existing lease on Tinian. I mentioned to [Department of Public Lands Secretary Pete A.] Tenorio last week that I will ask them to schedule with him a first ad-hoc meeting to address Pagan,” he added.

In regards to DPL’s planned trip to Pagan, Whelden thinks there would be some benefit for his team to accompany Tenorio to the island so they can better understand the CNMI’s aspirations for Pagan as well as the CNMI understanding the limitations and care of the military’s planned use of Pagan.

“It’s time to take the next step, by opening the dialogue to find out how we can both benefit by the DoD’s use (for training) of an island we recognize has special significance to the people of the CNMI. There is no commitment made by sitting down and talking. We may just learn that there are benefits to both sides,” he said.

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Jayson Camacho | Reporter
Jayson Camacho covers community events, tourism, and general news coverages. Contact him at

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  • pattepareihu

    Do not believe a word of what the military tells you about them being good stewards of the environment.

  • NMSoria

    Thank you Mr. Whelden to spare Pagan for military bombing exercises.

    • Sam W.

      Saying that it’s a training range does not mean he is excluding the “inert bombs”. It does not change what is written in the DEIS. Whelden’s statements are trying to misdirect our gullible citizens. He is blatantly taking us for fools!

  • Juanita Mendiola This is how much we can trust them when they speak for the military.

  • Chamole

    So Pagan isn’t a “bombing range”, it’s just a “training range” Whelden? Changing what you call is isn’t going to erase the facts in the DEIS, nor is it going to erase what you people have already told us about your plans to bomb Pagan.

    In April, your Tim Robet acknowledged that there will be “air delivered ordnance from aircraft to the ground.” “No need to drop every kind of bomb in DoD inventory to meet training requirements,” he said. He said they eliminated 1,000-pound, 2,000-pound bombs.” So any bomb 999 lbs or lower can be dropped.

    Your DEIS certainly describes a full-scale bombing range:

    “Full Spectrum Weapons Employment: An alternative must include a suitable location(s) for the High Hazard Impact Area(s) that would accommodate the full spectrum of weapons required for combined level training while providing a safe distance from the proposed expeditionary base camp/bivouac area and airfield. The targets for the Field Artillery Indirect Fire Range, Mortar Range, Field Artillery Direct Fire Range, Combined Arms Training Range to Support Close Air Support and Naval Gunfire Support Training, Offensive Air Support Range, and Close Air Support Range need to be co-located as these types of training utilize high explosive munitions which require a High Hazard Impact Area to provide a larger variety of target placement and engagement scenarios. The High Hazard Impact Area needs to be in a central area for Field Artillery Indirect Fire Range points to fire overhead into the impact area.”

    The list of weapony is pretty impressive for a “not a bombing range”:

    Naval Gunfire – 5-inch naval gunfire high-explosive rounds
    FA-18 Hornet Aircraft
    F-35 Lighting II (Joint Strike Fighter) Aircraft
    F-16 Aircraft
    F-22 Aircraft
    F-15E Aircraft
    AV-8B Harrier II Aircraft
    C-130 Aircraft
    C-17, Aircraft
    KC-135 Aircraft
    KC-46 Aircraft
    AH-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter delivering GPS guided munitions, direct fire rockets, and bullets fired from guns
    M2HB .50-caliber machine gun
    High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles with the M2 heavy machine gun,
    M240G/B machine gun, 7-Ton Trucks, Combat Vehicle
    Light Armored Vehicle (LAV-25) with 25 mm chain gun
    Army Stryker Fire Support Vehicle with 105 mm mobile gun system
    105 mm howitzer
    M777 155 mm howitzer
    120 mm mortar for all training ranges
    M224 60 mm mortar and the M252 81 mm mortar
    M203 grenade launcher (40 mm) attached to an M16 or M4 rifle
    MK19 40 mm grenade launcher
    Live, high explosive and inert Anti-Tank-4 (84 mm) Shoulder Launched Multi-Purpose Assault Weapon versions of the Javelin
    Light Anti-Armor Weapon (66 mm),
    Tube-fired, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile
    Shoulder Launched Multi-Purpose Assault Weapon (83 mm) systems
    M72 Light Anti-Armor/Tank Weapon
    M2 .50 caliber machine gun,
    M16 carbine rifles
    M4 carbine rifles
    M240 7.62 mm machine gun
    M249 squad automatic weapon
    M27 infantry automatic rifle
    M67 fragmentation grenade
    7.62 mm and .50 caliber sniper weapons
    .45 caliber pistols
    9 mm, combat shotgun

    Come on Whelden, no more distortions and misdirection. You’re building a bombing range when you bomb it and subject it to full-spectrum weapons deployment.

    We know that “Collateral Damage” means “accidental killing of civilans”. We know that “inert bombs” are just bombs with a lower level of shapnel inside that are still extremely destructive but to a smaller area.

    Stop the lies. Man up and tell the truth. You’re planning to bomb our islands, take away our lands, restrict our movements, destroy our cultural treasures, ruin our tourist economy, and turn us into the Foodstamp, Government Assistance Islands.

    • SweetTitiyas

      Most excellent post!

    • pattepareihu

      White man speaks with forked tongue…still holds true in this century. And they think we are the ignorant ones.

  • TaotaoMarianas

    Regardless of what the military wants to do, they shouldn’t get Pågan no matter what. Go somewhere else. Pågan belongs to the people of the Marianas.

  • Tinalakattne Yantitiyas

    Shame on you Whelden! Tai’mamalau! Speaking with forked tongue.

  • degkai

    Congratulation Mr. Whelden for someone who speaks with forked tongue, you be now known in the local community as”Fotten Dakun yan Fotten Gaga”

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