With yet another successful U.S. Marines training under its belt, Tinian looks forward to hosting more military exercises not only for U.S. troops but also its allies at a time when the U.S. Air Force is deliberating on whether to put a divert base on Saipan or Tinian.
Don Farrell, a CNMI historian, said the original plan for Tinian in 1975 to serve as a multi-service training base “was the right idea” and it is “still the right idea.”
“I had no doubt that sooner or later we would see Japanese troops on Tinian working with Marines. The Covenant was created on the fundamental principle of providing a fallback base for the Marines on Okinawa-on sovereign American soil-when it reverted to Japanese sovereignty. It has taken longer than expected, but it is not unexpected,” Farrell told Saipan Tribune.
Tinian had expected Japanese Self-Defense Force ground troops to actually take part in the certification exercise; nevertheless, Japanese military officers were observing the exercise and a platoon was in a nearby ship.
Twelve amphibious tracked vehicles carrying some 130 U.S. Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Okinawa, Japan left Tinian yesterday after the exercise.
The III MEU Special Operations Training Group led by Maj. Jonathan Bossie, which arrived on Tinian on Sept. 6 with some 65 Marines, will also start clearing out of Tinian today.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial has long advocated for U.S. forces to use Tinian for its intended purposes under the technical lease agreement between the Commonwealth and the United States, press secretary Angel Demapan said.
“The Fitial administration is pleased to see that there has been significant increase of military activity in the municipality. While it is a major step in the direction of honoring the agreement between the local and federal government, the influx of personnel on the ground also proves beneficial to the economic activity in the municipality,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.
“The governor remains hopeful that soon enough the U.S. government will make whole of the terms and conditions it agreed upon when the lease agreement was first signed.
“The people of Tinian, most especially, were promised significant military presence through the construction of a base and more importantly, much needed jobs for the residents of Tinian. The Fitial administration desires to see these promises fulfilled as the United States moves forward with its military realignment plans in the region,” Demapan added.
Farrell said there are two critical factors holding up the full use of Tinian as a military base and as a viable private-sector economic entity: the harbor and the airport that are “fundamental, essential, infrastructure for any kind of economic development.”
“The airport should have been completed years ago to accommodate the casino industry, particularly after the Dynasty was constructed. The CNMI has lost millions of dollars in revenue because it has not been completed. The Tinian leadership is now moving forward with repairs to the harbor dock. The remaining factor is the breakwater. The question is, as always, who will pay: the people of Tinian, the people of the CNMI, the Department of the Interior or the Department of Defense? This military exercise, along with the Geiger Forager in December, will certainly influence that decision,” Farrell said.
Another MAG-12 exercise is scheduled by the end of the year.
Two-thirds of Tinian is leased to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Tinian was the launching pad for the two atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening the end of the war.