A local U.S. Army infantryman is admittedly conflicted with the proposed military buildup in the CNMI, but from experience says that proposed high-impact live firing ranges would be safe.
“When we fired…the national Hawaiian geese was on those ranges. Whenever we saw the bird within a one-mile radius, the range goes cold. We shut down,” said Edward Dela Cruz, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
“How fast is it going to be? It’ll take three seconds,” he said.
“The ranges are highly safe,” he added. “…We have designated targets so soldiers will not miss. If they miss, we fail our jobs as officers.”
From speaking with his peers, he said most of them are “pro-military.” “They just don’t want to speak out right now because the crowds are really aggressive. If they came out here to talk about their service, they’d say [the firing ranges] are necessary.”
But as one who studied natural resource management in college, Dela Cruz conceded that “on the environmental side” the military could do much better, particularly on Pagan.
“How much freedom of access will they be given out there? The minute we give the military any ground—once they take those areas—they have every right to restrict people off it.”
But in the event the military does back off from using Pagan, he said the CNMI people and Northern Mariana Island descents “better damn see something happen” with the island’s development.
He was referring to Senate Bill 19-29, which aims to bring agencies together to set off the process of resettling Pagan.
“We’ve been harping that Pagan can be used for decades. Why just now? There’s been a lot of talks about how we can use Pagan as geothermal renewable energy source, or use it for ecotourism—and it takes a military buildup to wake up their eyes to finally build something?”
Dela Cruz challenged lawmakers to continue with this effort regardless if military buildup happens or not.