“According to the Guam Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division the growing popularity of “fight clubs” and “extreme fighting” on the island has led to an increase in violent assaults in the Tumon area.
“While the recent Tumon-area assaults do not specifically target military members several Air Force and Navy individuals have been attacked in recent months by followers or members of extreme fighting groups. CID investigators believe the extreme fighting groups attack individuals in Tumon in order to practice takedowns and fighting techniques on persons who appear intoxicated.”
The Dec. 13 warning containing the accusation that extreme fighters have attacked multiple individuals including military members in downtown Tumon ” was sent to Andersen Air Force Base personnel in an internal memo from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Andersen.
The memo said “In order to deter an attack military members should increase situational awareness should temper alcohol consumption and should not travel alone in the Tumon area between 0000 and 0400 hours.”
The office of special investigations called on recipients to “Share this information with all unit personnel and family members.”
The memo began to circulate within the Air Force and on-island and a copy was supplied to the Journal.
The Journal contacted the Guam Police Department for comment. Frank Ishizaki the chief of police read the notice after the Journal gave him a copy of it. He said GPD could not verify that anybody from the Air Force had contacted GPD. Nor was GPD aware of the alleged attacks on military personnel. Ishizaki said “The Air Force put it out. They need to explain it. If they have any credible information regarding this threat we would appreciate being properly notified.” When asked if there was an appropriate protocol that the Air Force might utilize to contact GPD he said “Yes. It’s called a telephone.”
Members of the mixed martial arts community have seen other copies of the memo but told the Journal they did not know of a rise in assaults against military personnel or any specific incidents involving members involved in altercations with military personnel.
The gyms actually have positive relationships with the military.
Steve Roberto jiu-jitsu instructor for Spike 22/Purebred Academy said in addition to being a Spike 22/Purebred instructor he also trains members of Seal Team 5 at Naval Station.
Prior to speaking with the Journal Roberto had already seen a copy of the memo.
He told the Journal “The military personnel that I do train are really good guys. Once in a while we get a guy who is there for the wrong reasons and doesn’t check his ego at the door but once they start training they realize that they need to take a more serious and professional approach to training.”
Roberto said he had nothing but good things to say about the military. “I support the military and their mission and I do support their presence on Guam.” Roberto said that for the mixed martial arts event— Fury 4 — tickets were sold through the Navy’s Morale Welfare and Recreation office.
Military and island personnel were hired for VIP security.
“I don’t really hear of my students getting into altercations with locals or the military. I am not aware of anything that happens to the extent in the memo.
“The altercations that I have heard of have been military personnel fighting other military personnel. Those types of altercations seem to be more common than the ones mentioned in the memo ” he said.
“We make it clear to our students that we don’t tolerate that type of behavior whatsoever. If we do get word of them involving themselves in any type of altercation whether it be with locals or military they will be removed from the gym. That is our policy.”
Roberto said he believes that mixed martial artists might be blamed for the altercations because of the gym’s merchandise. Roberto said “I cannot even count the number of shirts we have sold that have Purebred or Spike 22 on it. If you wear a shirt that depicts a certain gym’s logo people automatically assume that you’re affiliated with that group. I think that is how they came up with the assumption that the people who are attacking military personnel are members of extreme fighting groups. I feel that it’s not fair to single out individuals or certain groups.”
The Journal contacted the OSI which acknowledged authorship of the memo. The paper was referred by the senior OSI officer to the Public Affairs Office at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C. Despite numerous messages the Journal’s calls were not returned.
Lt. John D. Griffin public affairs officer for the 36th Air Expeditionary Wing at Andersen Air Force Base had not seen the memo and was also supplied a copy by the Journal. He said “The phraseology in the memo is misrepresentative of the communication between GPD and our offices. Yes there have been assaults but the motivation behind those is unclear.” The assailants and their affiliation or associations are also unknown he said.
Griffin said that there is nothing in the memo that said ‘Don’t visit Tumon.’ However he said “Just be aware of your surroundings when you are down there late at night.”
Griffin said “The motives are unclear the assailants unknown and GPD is looking into the situation. Andersen Air Force Base has a very good working relationship with the Guam Police Department and we will continue working with them on any incidents that would involve both of our interests. We currently have all sorts of training that involves both our agencies we have contingency planning that involves both of our agencies and we have a good working relationship.”
Griffin said he would not comment on specific assaults or when the Air Force communicated with GPD about the alleged assaults.
This is not the first time allegations of military personnel not being able to leave the confines of military bases without suffering physical harm has surfaced. Ishizaki said GPD has dealt with accusations that police officers were dealing roughly with military personnel. “Last year — because I was made aware of a perception of police brutality — I quickly reviewed all of the allegations ” he said.
After an immediate internal investigation he determined the accusations were unfounded. Ishizaki then contacted Rear Adm. Arthur Johnson who was then commander of Naval Forces Marianas and Col. Paul “P.K.” White who was then commander of the 36th Air Expeditionary Force at Andersen Air Force Base. Ishizaki invited both sectors of the military to regularly assign military police to Tumon “with a presence any time they want ” and participate in policing the area.
“The admiral was very responsive. The Navy quickly took me up on the recommendation ” Ishizaki said. He credits the presence of the Navy MPs who have become a familiar sight in Tumon. “They minimized incidents with the military. What I always wanted was for the Air Force to do the same but they didn’t see a need.”
Wanjoo Kim owner of the Fishbowl Bar & Lounge said he had not seen fights between fighters and military personnel. “I haven’t seen that specific type of altercation at my establishment. My bar has been open for four years now and since the bar has opened we have only had a handful of incidents.” While his bar has not had many incidents he is aware of other people’s concerns.
Kim said he tries to prevent incidents between customers by having security personnel posted at the entrance of the bar security posted inside the bar and through responsible bartending.
Kevin Chang night manager at Marty’s Tex Mex said that Marty’s has not had any problems with extreme fighters getting into altercations with military personnel.
Chang told the Journal “We do have military personnel who frequent our establishment more personnel frequent the restaurant than the bar but we haven’t had any altercations like the ones mentioned in the memo.” He partly attributes the low number of altercations to the military security personnel who keep watch at Marty’s. Chang has heard of altercations occurring at other establishments but said it does not seem to be a common occurrence.
Gabriel R. Baker Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy instructor at Gold’s Gym; said he and many others who practice mixed martial arts try to be as professional as possible. Baker said the people mentioned in the memo could be anyone because there are many backyard gyms and people who want to be fighters. “Anyone can watch a video and learn a takedown but that doesn’t make them mixed martial artists.”
Baker told the Journal “There is a difference between self defense and going out and starting trouble. Even myself if someone tries to start a fight and I can’t back out of it I will defend myself and being a mixed martial artist I am going to use what I know.” He said his policy on fighting is if it is unnecessary he will not tolerate it. “If I know that my guys are fighting on the street for unnecessary reasons. I don’t tolerate it. I kick them right out of my gym. It doesn’t matter who it is. I don’t care if you are my best guy. I’ll kick you off my team. I want to uphold a respectable gym.”
One reason why mixed martial artists might be blamed for the altercations is because the gyms sell t-shirts with gym names and logos on to fundraise. Baker said anyone could buy a t-shirt. He said some of the people who buy shirts then go out and get into fights and people automatically assume that they are members of those gyms.
From his experience Baker said being an MMA fighter has actually decreased the odds of getting into an altercation. “When I go out to clubs I have people I don’t even know coming up to me and saying ‘Hi.’” He said he meets more people who are fans of MMA than people who want to start a fight.
Roman Dela Cruz representative of Fokai Industries and member of Spike 22/Purebred Academy; told the Journal “It is important for the island of Guam to realize that mixed martial arts is a good thing for Guam and that it’s important for promoters and participants of mixed martial arts to agree and to work towards a positive product. I also think the real purpose of mixed martial arts on Guam is not to create tough guys but create another avenue toward quality athletics for our local participants.” Dela Cruz had also seen a copy of the memo prior to speaking with the Journal.
Dela Cruz said “We hope the military can see mixed martial arts training centers as an opportunity to be interactive with the local people.”
If more military personnel trained with the gyms their relationships would be better he said. “ It would be better for them [the military] to come in as training partners before they start labeling the locals as trouble makers.”
Dela Cruz said the number of altercations involving mixed martial arts was comparable to the number of altercations involving people who don’t practice MMA. He said “Training in no way promotes beating up people. The training emphasizes keeping the action off the streets and on the mats. Any type of situation that we hear about is automatically addressed. Spike 22 instructors strongly discourage any type of altercations outside of the gym.”
Ishizaki said “GPD wants to ensure we maintain peace and order in Guam most especially in Tumon. The bulk of our community wants to have good relations with the military.” Ishizaki said the intention is that “Everybody can go to Tumon and have a nice time.”
Griffin said Team Andersen informs its members about activities on- and off-base regarding the variety of leisure activities and other aspects of life on Guam.
“If there’s an increase in particular dangers on island whether it’s criminal environmental or health-related we warn our members and offer suggestions on how to avoid the situation. We enjoy a good relationship with the government of Guam local businesses and entertainment venues and look to continue these relationships.” – Jay Baza Pascua and Maureen N. Maratita contributed to this story. MBJ