Military Buildup Continues in Guam

Military Buildup Continues in Guam

A long range bomber group is the latest addition to the combat lineup on this once-remote Pacific island.

In April 2020, the Air Force began rotating bomber groups in and out of Guam. Each rotation is usually a bit longer than the previous one. This system gets more airmen and air crews acclimated to service on Guam. That experience could be very useful in the coming years, if war with China breaks out. This latest deployment also included a joint exercise with an amphibious assault vessel. “Every bomber task force is important because they accomplish both tactical and strategic objectives,” remarked squadron commander Lt. Col. Ryan Stallsworth. “As we conduct training operations, we are able to increase our bomber force lethality, readiness and experience across the force. It also demonstrates the Department of Defense’s ability to operate in an agile fashion to the world.”

Other Pacific Rim allies, such as Australia and Japan, are also part of the ongoing buildup in Guam.

Guam on the Front Line

On a globe, Guam is not much more than a dot. But it is by far the largest island between Hawaii and Japan. So, it is historically critical for regional military planners.

During World War II, the Allies employed an island hopping strategy to close the noose on Imperial Japan. Planners began developing this strategy in 1897, largely in response to Japanese objections to Hawaiian annexation. During this controversy, the Japanese sent a heavy cruiser to Honolulu as a show of force.

In a future conflict against China, Guam might play a similar role. Guam is almost 3,000 miles from China. That’s about a five-and-a-half-hour flight. So, assets can travel from Guam to China fairly quickly, and there is plenty of time to respond to anything incoming.

That location makes Guam an ideal staging area. In modern warfare, such remote staging areas are critical for success. Many weapons and surveillance tools, like long-range drones, require lots of maintenance. This work must be done in a relatively safe location. Since most conflicts no longer have front lines and rear areas, such places are hard to find.

World powers have often used Guam for this purpose. When the Spanish colonized Guam beginning in the 1560s, they quickly built a network of fortifications to protect and shelter Pacific trading vessels. Many of these edifices, such as Umatac’s Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, still stand today.

Contractors in Guam

Engineering elements of the Spanish Army built Guam’s protective forts. Today, most of these construction duties fall to private contractors. For the government, contractors are much cheaper and more efficient. Their cash compensation is rather high. But the government’s financial obligation ends when contractors’ missions end. Therefore, over the long haul, the cost differential is almost mind-boggling.

Contractors are also more efficient. Instead of planning everything out in detail, and paying for every item on the budget, decisionmakers give contractors a vision, and contractors do the work.

Guam has been an American possession since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Navy and Marines almost immediately established bases on this strategic island. These older facilities were renovated and expanded during the Vietnam War era. Now, they must be renovated and expanded again.

Security at such worksites is not usually a problem. Electric fences and security cameras are normally enough to deter vandals and other such people. The work itself, however, is a different matter. That is where contractors come in.

Commercial buildings are usually not much more than skeletons. Tenants determine the build-out. Military installations are different. They must be designed and built with specific purposes in mind. Only private military contractors, most of whom have handled jobs like these in the past, have that kind of expertise.

Renovating older facilities is dangerous. Most of these structures contain asbestos, especially if they were built before 1980. One tiny asbestos fiber could cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another serious disease. So, the workers must be well-protected.

Once the construction project is finished, a contractor’s responsibilities do not end. Pretty much everything that comes to or leaves Guam either arrives or departs via oceangoing vessel. So, there is an intense need for longshoremen and other such laborers. The Defense Base act dovetails nicely with this need. The longshoreman division of the Department of Labor administers this program. So, Claims Examiners and Administrative Law Judges are quite familiar with the injuries contractors sustain in this area.

Injury Compensation Available

Construction and maintenance are usually more dangerous than combat operations. Although movies and TV shows imply otherwise, most combat soldiers have lots of down time. Maintenance and construction contractors face constant danger from things like:

  • Falls,
  • Electrocution,
  • Being struck by an object, or
  • Being caught between two objects.

The resulting injuries are often critical. So, the medical bills could easily exceed $100,000. Either at the beginning of the case or at the end of it, the Defense Base Act takes care of these bills.

If liability and damages are relatively clear, the insurance company has a duty to promptly pay medical bills. Frequently, the mere presence of a lawyer on the other side prompts insurance companies to settle quickly rather than face litigation.

However, in most cases, there is at least some question in at least one of these areas. So, these matters often proceed to an administrative hearing. An Administrative Law Judge, who as mentioned is familiar with these matters, hears from both sides and makes a decision. Awarded benefits, including medical bill payment, is usually retroactive to the date of the claim.

The DBA covers all reasonably necessary medical expenses, from the first moment of emergency care to the last day of physical therapy. Quite often, especially if the injury occurred on Guam or another remote location, the ancillary costs might be higher than the actual medical costs. Most victims must be transported to large hospitals in Hawaii, Japan, or another faraway location. That one trip could be immensely expensive.

Most contractor injuries require extensive physical therapy. It is very important for an attorney to continue to advocate for victims at this point. Otherwise, the insurance company might pull the financial plug, and the victim might not fully recover.

For more information about other available DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.