Transport Aircraft Flies from Texas to Guam

Two crews took shifts during a marathon 26-hour flight, which, according to the mission commander, is just a “stepping stone” in the development of long-range air travel.

The C-130J was equipped to handle the demands of the journey. External fuel tanks, affixed beneath its wings, provided an additional 17,000 pounds of fuel, effectively extending its flight time by approximately four hours. 

Captain Anna Santori, one of the pilots involved in the Hazard Leap mission, stated, “The external tanks have new capabilities for us, allowing us to fly farther without refueling. It gives us about 17,000 pounds of fuel, which translates to roughly four extra hours of flying.” 

According to the USAF, the objective of the latest MEO was not merely a test of endurance for both crew and aircraft but a demonstration of the AMC’s preparedness to execute follow-on missions at a moment’s notice.

Maj. Alex Leach, the mission commander and 40th Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations, hailed the successful completion of “Hazard Leap” as a testament to the team’s dedication and the extraordinary capabilities of the C-130J Super Hercules. 

“This operation set a new standard for our squadron and this airframe; it serves as a stepping-stone for future missions,” Maj. Leach remarked, emphasizing its pivotal role as a precursor to future missions.

The importance of these operations holds considerable weight against the backdrop of the shifting geopolitical landscapes, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, where the potential for conflict with China is on the rise. 

Guam’s Prior Strategic Value

Despite its seemingly isolated location, Guam has been an important part of global military and commercial plans since Europeans arrived in the 16th century.

Guam is part of the Marianas Islands, which were inhabited for at least 3.000 years before Ferdinand Magellan “discovered” them on his around-the-world discovery voyage in 1521. Details about that first encounter are sparse, as only eighteen of Magellan’s sailors made it back to Spain to tell their stories. We do know the native Chamorus islanders did not share European concepts of property ownership. So, the Spanish initially named the three Guamanian Islands Islas de los Ladrones (Islands of Thieves). This misconception unfortunately followed many native people in many other areas for many years to come.

For more than 100 years, the Spanish did not fully recognize this island’s strategic value for over 40 years. Although they officially “claimed” the island in 1565, the first Spanish colonists didn’t arrive until 1668. 

In the meantime, the Spanish used Guam as a stopping-off point on the long haul between Mexico and the Philippines. The ruins of some of these facilities, such as military facilities, still stand today. Sailing closer to islands was safer than sailing in open seas. Furthermore, after the initial shaky encounter, relations between Chamorus people and Europeans vastly improved. Long-range commerce was very important to both people.

Things began to change after 1813 when the Spanish lost control of Mexico. Guam basically died on the vine. Most Catholic priests left, and the few remaining ones could barely survive. American whaling vessels started using Guam, once again for strategic reasons, around 1820. The American takeover soon became complete. So, when Spain officially ceded the island to the United States in 1899, Guam was already an American possession in everything but name.

Guam’s Current Strategic Value

In contrast to the Spanish, the Americans quickly noted Guam’s strategic value and fully exploited it. Initially, the Americans used Guam as a prison camp in the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War. Thn, between World Wars I and II, Guam was a key component of the War Department’s Plan Orange, a strategic plan against Japan.

The best-laid plans of mice and men went awry in December 1941 when the Japanese invaded and occupied Guam. For the next three years, this occupation included forced labor, family separation, execution, internment in concentration camps, and forced prostitution. Some historians estimate that war violence killed 10% of Guam’s people.

Americans launched a reconquest campaign in July 1944. Japanese forces officially surrendered on August 10, 1944. Only 485 soldiers out of a garrison of over 20,000 surrendered. The rest were killed, wounded, or missing. Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, who surrendered in January 1972, appears to have been the last confirmed Japanese holdout, having held out for twenty-eight years in the forested back country on Guam.

Guam was subsequently converted into a forward operations base for the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Airfields were constructed in the northern part of the island (including Andersen Air Force Base), the island’s pre-WWII naval station was expanded, and numerous facilities and supply depots were constructed throughout the island.

Currently, many American military planners view Guam as something of a firebase in a potential conflict with China. For that to happen, Guam’s military facilities must, once again, be significantly expanded.

Contractors and Contractor Injuries in Guam

Usually, contractors handle not only construction projects on Guam, but also other “back office” affairs as well, such as equipment maintenance.

Quite simply, construction contractors know their jobs and get to work. They do not need extensive training or preparation. Usually, they have done the same kind of work in other parts of the world, like Iraq, that make Guam look like a paradise. As for preparation, once you have lengthened one airstrip or expanded one harbor facility, you’re an expert.

Contractors also maintain military equipment, such as the navigation systems on the jets that land on the runways and the weapons systems on the ships that dock in the harbor. Firebase-type facilities, like Guam, stress long-range missiles and other long-range weapons. These weapons must operate flawlessly to avoid enemy countermeasures and hit their targets.

Construction and maintenance work are dangerous. Falls may be the most common trauma injuries in these situations. Back home, falls are responsible for about a third of all fatal construction accidents. The proportion may be much higher away from home, where federal wage, hour, and workplace safety laws usually do not apply.

Building something new usually means teasing something down. Almost all military facilities, like barracks, built before the Cold War ended contain asbestos. This substance, once widely used in attic insulation and other such materials, causes mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of heart-lung cancer that’s usually fatal.

When these or other injuries strike, a Defense Base Act lawyer can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, such as reasonably necessary medical bills and lost wages. This compensation enables injured contractors to get back on the job as quickly as possible, which, in the end, is what everyone wants.

That being said, disputes over the amount of damages are very common in these cases. For example, to an insurance adjuster, “reasonably necessary” usually means “cheapest available.” DBA lawyers work to ensure that victims get the treatment they need when they need it, not the treatment an adjuster pays for.

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