As the military remains deeply involved in relief efforts on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the Navy and Air Force have suspended permanent change of station moves to its bases there as the region recovers from the damage wrought by Typhoon Mawar.
The category four cyclone ripped through the Pacific archipelago in late May, cutting power lines, uprooting trees and disrupting water supplies.
Personnel stationed at Naval Base Guam, Andersen Air Force Base and Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz — in concert with the Army guardsmen, reservists, the Coast Guard, FEMA and other agencies — have all been involved in recovery efforts, both military and civilian, and assisting local governments. A combined joint task force led by U.S. Army Pacific and Task Force West is spearheading the military’s efforts.
Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Task Force West, and all military installation commanding officers in Guam “are diligently working to restore steady state to the bases and dedicate resources to all FEMA mission assignments,” according to a Navy news release.
No new arrivals — for now
In a May 23 naval administrative message, Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman Jr., the chief of naval personnel, announced that the Navy would be pausing all PCS moves to Guam “for Navy uniformed members, civilians and their dependents” until June 30. Sailors PCSing out of the territory can leave as soon as they secure travel. The pause doesn’t apply to personnel slated for temporary additional duty.
The Air Force took a similar tack May 25, halting inbound PCS assignments to Andersen for 60 days “in order to ensure incoming service members and their families have adequate resources available to them,” an Air Force spokseperson told Military Times. Andersen expected to receive 240 PCS arrivals between June and August, public affairs officials from the 36th Wing, the base’s host unit, told Military Times. Around 400 people have moved out of the Air Force base to their next assignment since the typhoon made landfall.
“The stop movement also gives 36th Wing leadership time to evaluate the damage done to our resources while also making sure we’re prepared to take care of the families that are due to PCS to Andersen,” the official added.
The PCS pause timeline may shift depending on the progress of relief efforts.
The Marines, however, haven’t issued a broad suspension of inbound PCSs to Camp Blaz, choosing instead to assess “each individual” PCS arrival, Maj. Diann Rosenfeld, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Installations Pacific, told Military Times. Around a dozen Marines plan to PCS to Guam between June and July; one has arrived since the storm swept through, and all outbound June PCSs have departed.
“We are taking all necessary steps to accommodate PCSers already en route to Guam,” Rosenfeld added. “For example, because comms were limited directly after the storm, our sponsors have met face-to-face with different agencies across the island to ensure those agencies could still support our inbound Marines.”
The Air Force described similar plans.
“There are various courses of actions (COAs) in place for members that were due to PCS here to ensure their needs are met if/when they arrive,” a 36th Wing spokesperson said. “Service members that were already on their way or slated to PCS to Andersen AFB are encouraged to work with their sponsors and chain of command to minimize confusion and ensure a smooth PCS process.”
Military installations across Guam sustained damage during the storm. The extent of the damage and how long repairs will take is still not completely clear. Both of Andersen’s runways are operational and fielding plane-loads of aid daily, according to base personnel.
Over half of the island’s 170,534 inhabitants still lacked electricity as of Thursday, according to the Guam Power Authority. The Guam Waterworks Authority estimated that roughly 30% of residents still don’t have access to clean water. The typhoon’s record-breaking winds and rains caused upwards of $112 million in damage, according to initial tallies.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.