In December 2022, an armed robber shot and killed a convenience store clerk, sending shock waves throughout the island.
The incident happened at a convenience store on San Miguel St. in Talo’fo’fo’. Police only have a vague description of the alleged shooter, who fled the scene with an undetermined amount of cash in a white, double-cab Toyota pickup truck with black rims, dark tint, and a tri-fold black bed cover. The victim, whose identity has yet to be released, was transported by Guam Fire Department medics to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. A Guam Police spokesperson said that prior to the victim’s transport, he was conscious and responsive.
In an unrelated development, a judge sentenced a 40-year-old man to 10 years in prison for his high role in an elaborate methamphetamine smuggling operation. “It wasn’t just a small amount. It was a large amount of drugs, and the court is also concerned that your client has a prior offense,” the judge told defense counsel prior to passing the sentence.
The sudden uptick in local violence may cause DoD planners to rethink the way they will transform Guam into a firebase for a potential war against China.
Firebases were a critical part of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. These installations, which were usually far from the fighting, contained artillery batteries. A well-timed and well-placed artillery barrage could break up the most determined enemy attack and lay waste to the most carefully prepared enemy fortifications. Firebases were also resupply posts which also offered a bit of rest and relaxation for beleaguered front-line troops. Army or Marine garrisons protected these firebases.
There is some more recent precedent for the firebase model. During the Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War, many aircraft, mostly bombers, flew combat sorties in Southwest Asia from airbases in the continental United States.
Guam is about 2,000 miles from Beijing. Kansas City to Baghdad is about the same distance. Therefore, bombers, drones, and many long-range missiles could easily reach targets in China from bases in Guam. At the same time, Guam is well out of the range of most Chinese weapons. If the Chinese did launch an attack, the Americans could easily see it coming and be ready for it.
Moreover, Guam is an excellent resupply base. Combat resupply is difficult, stressful, and uncertain. Rear area resupply has none of these complications. Furthermore, although Guam is not a paradise like Hawaii, it is certainly much nicer than the South China Sea.
What Contractors Do in Guam
Firebases, especially large, island-size firebases, do not spring up overnight and out of nowhere. Someone must build them from the ground up. In Guam, as in Vietnam, this someone is most likely a private military contractor.
Construction contractors have a unique combination of building skills and military skills. So, they anticipate the military’s needs and plan projects accordingly. Usually, contractors are construction supervisors. Local workers do much of the actual construction. This arrangement helps the community feel invested in the project. It also keeps people occupied, so they have less time to shoot clerks and smuggle drugs.
Logistical contractors, like mechanics, are important as well. The aforementioned advanced, long-range weapons require advanced maintenance and support. The smallest issue could take a multi-billion dollar weapons system offline. Against a powerful adversary like China, there is no room for such problems.
The sudden uptick in violence on the island means the DoD may also need more security contractors. Many of these contractors are former law enforcement officers. They know how to deter rapscallions without starting firefights. This low-key yet effective deterrence also helps these contractors develop relationships in the local community. People who trust contractors are more likely to come forward with information about criminal activity, including possible terrorist activity.
The United States has occupied Guam for over a hundred years. Although most islanders tolerate this occupation, they aren’t especially happy about it. Some are more unhappy than others. As we have learned, a few unhappy people can cause a great deal of destruction, especially if these individuals are easily swayed.
If the real shooting starts, security contractors answer the call. When the DoD has an immediate need, regular servicemembers usually are not the answer. Combat troops require months of training, and once their deployments end, the government’s financial commitment is just beginning. Contractors are boots on the ground almost immediately, and when their contract ends, the government’s financial commitment ends as well.
Injury Compensation Available
Construction and combat activities are very risky. That is especially true if the contractor is stationed on a dot in the Pacific.
Defense Base Act benefits pay all reasonably necessary medical expenses related to these and other injuries. The DBA also replaces lost wages. It usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of a temporary or permanent disability.
The Defense Base Act is no-fault insurance. Victims need only establish a deployment-related cause to obtain benefits. However, the claims process is usually not easy. Insurance company lawyers use every possible opportunity to delay or deny compensation.
A few weeks after victims file their injury claims, a third-party mediator usually presides over a settlement conference. The mediator works with both sides and tries to forge a settlement agreement. If the injury is relatively straightforward, like a broken arm or a gunshot wound, these efforts often bear fruit. However, if the case has any complexities at all, it almost always goes to the next level.
This level is a trial-like hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Like an elected or appointed judge, an ALJ can consider legal arguments and rule on evidence admissibility. The only major difference between an ALJ and a full judge is that only full judges can issue orders that bind nonparties, at least in most cases.
Insurance companies know that attorneys have free reign at administrative hearings. So, rather than risk such a hearing, they often try to settle these claims. It is important that the settlement terms fully account for all injuries, especially reasonable future medical expenses. It is difficult to re-open closed cases. So, if the settlement is insufficient, victims could be financially responsible for these expenses.
For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.