The United States Air Force is a relatively new branch of the American armed forces when compared to the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. At the ripe young age of about 74 years old and staffed by several hundred thousand people, the Air Force prides itself on being able to fly anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice to carry out a variety of offensive and defensive missions, using conventional and nuclear weapons close-in and from afar.
America’s ability to support and wage war cannot be fulfilled without the robust airpower and its supporting apparatus that the Air Force maintains.
The Air Force has installations worldwide. This is needed to quickly project deadly military power throughout the globe in record times. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could not have been carried out by the Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps without Air Force assets, personnel and logistical support needed to enable bombers, fighters, cargo planes, and unmanned airborne systems to fly into and out of operational areas.
Airpower and the Marianas Islands
For better and for worse, our Marianas Islands and Micronesian region have been a priceless basing location for American airpower for several decades. As most of us are aware, Tinian is the only place in the world where terminal preparations and actual launches of offensive aircraft missions to drop nuclear weapons took place. Guam was instrumental in providing key support actions sponsored by the American national government, to prepare Tinian for nuclear bombing strikes against Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan.
Today’s Air Force
Today, the U.S. Air Force seeks to maintain total control of the skies, cyberspace, and outer space environments. The Air Force continually assists infantry and ground-based military personnel and produces and consumes huge amounts of intelligence information. The Air Force has a robust inventory of approximately 10 different kinds of aircraft fleets scattered across the globe, totaling upwards of 5,000 planes and systems. The U.S. Space Force, which was recently established, falls under the operational control and decision-making structures of the Air Force.
How the Marianas Islands has and continues to support global Air Force operations
Andersen Air Force base has been and remains one of the world’s most important and strategically located military bases from the American national government point of view. Andersen has massive petroleum and associated storage and ordnance facilities that allow the Air Force to replenish, maintain, initiate, and complete massive offensive and defensive operations worldwide.
Andersen gives the Air Force the ability to have and keep open a 24/7 aircraft gas station, parking facility, training complex, and maintenance locale that further enables the United States military to be ready for war.
Andersen has the capacity to receive refugees, civilians and military personnel who were evacuated, displaced, or injured elsewhere. Andersen provides the Air Force with a base of operations where American and allied special operations, paramilitary, contracted personnel, rockets, missiles, and unmanned aircraft can be housed, dispatched, and launched in direct support of U.S. and multinational policy objectives.
Andersen has also been the home of the air leg of America’s nuclear weapons triad where nuclear strike missions can be launched from Guam at identified targets located anywhere on planet earth.
Chamorros and the collective Pacific Islander presence in the Air Force
Thousands of Chamorros have joined the ranks of the Air Force since its establishment over seven decades ago. As is the case with Chamorros serving in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and intelligence communities, our families continue to demonstrate excellence through smart and hard work no matter their place within the total Air Force organization. Former Guam governor Carl Gutierrez and former Guam lieutenant governor Eddie Reyes (difunto) represents just one snapshot of two outstanding airmen who went on to do great things for the community.
Guam also houses an outstanding collection of Air Force reserve and National Guard units that have remained on the radar screens of the most senior Air Force officials. On two separate occasions, the writer of this article was told unsolicited by an Air Force colonel, an Air Force secretary, and an Air Force four-star general officer that Guam based reserve and National Guard personnel of Pacific Islander ancestry were among the very finest and most outstanding airmen they have encountered.
And as is the case with the Guam-based Army Reserve and National Guard units, the Air Force side of the house provides professional, educational, and upward economic mobility opportunities for family members, and villagers, with heavy strings attached.
Yet environmental and human injustices persist
There are downsides to everything, and this does not escape the U.S. government, military, or the American Air Force. Air Force operations in Guam have caused tremendous environmental damage to our island over several decades, creating environmental risk factors that have exposed and brought about rare cancers and other conditions previously not seen amongst our Chamorro people.
We must not forget that our island’s sole source aquifer was damaged and initially compromised from massive wartime airpower operations dating back to Army Air Corps activities that took place in Guam during the 1940s.
We must not forget that many of our families also lost partial or complete access and control of their ancestral lands due to unilateral American War Department decisions in the 1940s to take the most fertile, valuable, and beautiful portions of the island for military use, all without the prior, written, or formal consent of our ancient Chamorri clans.