Marines Start Packing Up in Japan

As part of a longstanding plan to remove troops from Okinawa, some 9,000 Marines will move to their new digs at Camp Blaz, which is on Guam, by the end of 2024.

Currently, about 18,000 Marines are stationed on Okinawa. “A small detachment of Logistics Marines will move to Guam in late 2024 in preparation for follow-on forces to move at a later date,” Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce said in December 2023. “No unit headquarters will move in this iteration.”

Guam’s Camp Blaz is the first new Marine base since 1952. The base will serve as a “strategic hub” in the Indo-Pacific region, the area that is the Defense Department’s top priority amid tensions between the United States and China.”

More than 45 projects are under construction at the base, Rosenfeld said. In fiscal year 2024, the planned U.S.-funded projects have an estimated budget of $680 million, and the Japan-funded projects have an estimated budget of $430 million, according to a spokesperson.

The United States in Japan

To many Japanese, the Americans are like an older stepbrother. He moves in whether you like it or not. Going forward, the relationship is uneasy. The older brother protects you from the bully down the street, but the stepbrother never feels like family.

In mid-1945, it appeared that World War II in the Pacific would continue for at least another year. Then, a combination of events abruptly ended the war in August. Some Japanese felt their government quit too quickly. A desperate coup against Emperor Hirohito did not succeed. Since they did not feel beaten, the American occupying army was unwelcome from the start.

The Japanese made do. They understood the Americans helped protect them from North Korean aggression in the 1950s. But the older stepbrother quickly wore out his welcome. A series of unfortunate events in the 1990s, including the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl by some intoxicated servicemen, hastened the process.

At the same time, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, which was created in 1954, grew steadily. Much later, in 2007, decision-makers quietly elevated overseas JSDF activities from “miscellaneous regulations” to “basic duties.”

Since Japan is now able to stand on its own two feet militarily, except against major threats, many people on both sides of the Pacific, especially some Japanese, want the Americans to leave. However, the DoD is unwilling to leave its forward bases against China. Guam is a logical fallback.

Contractors on Guam

Most private military contractors in Guam are construction workers or longshoremen. A few others handle security duties.

Guam’s hangars, barracks, docks, and other military facilities usually date back to the Cold War. 20th-century infrastructure cannot accommodate 21st-century weapons and systems. These physical facilities need updating. The underlying infrastructure, such as waste disposal, power, and water, must be upgraded as well.

For the government, contractors are an excellent alternative to Seabies and other combat construction engineers. These servicemembers are best suited for, well, combat construction, such as clearing minefields and building bridges. Adding a new wing to a building is a civilian job. Furthermore, when the project ends, the government’s financial commitment ends if the construction company works on a contract basis.

Such work is good for private military contractors as well. They make some money, they see someplace new, and they go home. Sometimes, however, they return home injured, which is not so good. Fortunately, injury compensation is available. More on that below.

Guam is a small island with virtually no natural resources. Its residents, including its servicemember residents, are completely dependent on imports. Therefore, longshoremen have a lot of ships to load and unload. The more cargo they handle, the more dangerous the work is.

We cannot forget security. Insurgent attacks are not a problem in Guam. However, as illustrated by the incident in Japan mentioned above, a few drunken sailors can cause as much damage as a suicide bomber.

Regular servicemembers do not usually like MP duty. They certainly do not like narking on one comrade to another comrade. Private military contractors are well-suited for such duties.

Construction and security often overlap. A few armed contractors at a construction site keep people away much more efficiently than a fence or a camera.

Injury Compensation Available

Construction is usually at or near the top of many “most dangerous jobs” lists, mostly because of the Fatal Four. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these four injuries cause most fatal construction accidents:

  • Falls: Falls from as little as four stories above ground cause such massive injuries that they are usually fatal. These injuries usually include trauma injuries to the brain and other internal organs. These injuries quickly get worse. Internal bleeding does not stop on its own, and injured brains press against the skull.
  • Caught Between: Faulty construction trenches often collapse on the people working inside them. Poorly prepared construction sites are all too common in places like Guam. Other victims are caught between a heavy construction vehicle, like a cement mixer, and a fixed object, like a retaining wall.
  • Struck By: Bodies that fall great distances sustain considerable damage. Likewise, hand tools and other objects that fall great distances cause considerable damage, even if a pedestrian victim is wearing a hard hat. Many government-sponsored projects have such tight deadlines that workers take dangerous shortcuts, including misuse of hand tools.
  • Electrocution: Tool misuse causes many electrocution injuries as well. Power tools must be double-grounded to ensure safety. Stay construction wires and overhead power lines also cause many electrocution injuries. The electrical surge is hotter than the surface temperature of the sun.

The Fatal Four fatality rate is higher in remote locations like Guam. The medical facilities on this island usually are not equipped to handle major trauma cases. So, doctors must stabilize victims and transport them overseas. The treatment delay is often deadly.

Defense Base Act financial benefits pay reasonably necessary medical bills in these cases. DBA benefits also replace lost wages, even if the victim was mostly at fault, or entirely at fault, for the injury.

Disputes are very common in these cases, mostly as to the amount of compensation necessary. Medical bills are a good example. Most insurance company adjusters believe “reasonably necessary” really means “cheapest available.”

A Defense Base Act lawyer advocates for victims so they get the medical treatment they need instead of the treatment an adjuster is willing to pay for.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. for more information about these benefits.