The Marine Corps on Thursday held an activation ceremony for its base on Guam, which ultimately will be home to about 5,000 Marines and will serve as a “strategic hub” in the Indo-Pacific, a Corps news release said.
The activation of Camp Blaz comes as part of the Marine Corps’ long-standing plans to move approximately 9,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan — now home to more than 18,000 Marines — to outside of Japan beginning in 2024. That plan arose from a 2012 bilateral decision between the United States and Japan, which has faced pressure from Okinawa residents to reduce the U.S. military presence on the island.
About $3 billion of the $8 billion construction project will come from Japan, Japanese news outlet Kyodo News reported.
Top Marine officials, including Commandant Gen. David Berger, and leaders from Guam and Japan attended Thursday’s ceremony on the island’s Asan Beach, the release stated.
“The future of Guam is inseparable from the future of the broader Indo-Pacific and the success of the Marines is inseparable from the success of Guam’s people,” Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said, according to the release.
The Marine Corps has in recent years shifted its attention toward threats from China. One aspect of Force Design 2030, the sweeping overhaul of the service developed amid the heightened focus on the Indo-Pacific, is constantly positioning Marines within the region to deter the Chinese military.
“Forward, persistent presence is key to the regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger said, according to the Marine Corps release. “Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz is a critical part of that. More than that, it shows our undivided relationship with the Government of Japan.”
Previously known as Marine Barracks Guam, the installation was deactivated in 1992, according to the release. The newly reactivated base is still under construction, so Marines won’t relocate there until beginning in the mid-2020s.
Some construction on the base temporarily was halted in 2019 after an archaeologist unearthed prehistoric and 19th-century artifacts, including rock tools and pottery fragments, at the site.
The base was administratively activated in October 2020, when it reached initial operational capability. It is located in the village of Dededo, on the northwestern part of the island.
Camp Blaz is named for Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas “Ben” Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro, or person indigenous to the Mariana Islands, to become a general officer in the Marine Corps.
Guam fell under U.S. control in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, and it officially became an unincorporated territory in 1950. The U.S. Air Force and Navy already have significant bases on the island.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.