Admiral explains increased military presence in Guam; potential for H-2 retention

Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas, said residents of Guam can expect to see an increased presence in Guam for a few reasons.

Speaking at a media briefing on May 9, he said one reason would be the movement of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD system to South Finegayan to “increase the capability the THAAD provides for Guam.” This would be on existing U.S. Department of Defense property he said. The Guam National Guard would continue to provide security for the system, which Nicholson said “may be visible at a distance.”

While the U.S. military owns various swathes of land in Guam, not all of it is suitable for security purposes, he told the Journal. “There’s large portions of that area no one can develop anything on,” he said.

Residents might also see equipment being moved along Marine Corps Drive, with some of the movement late at night to avoid congestion on Rte. 1. “That’s not always possible,” he said. 

An increased presence would also mean continued lodging in the community, the admiral said.

“We’re going to consistently see military and civilians will be utilizing the hotels in Tumon,” he said.

March visitor numbers included 1,640 U.S. military in the month’s 9,401 total arrivals.Valiant Shield – one of the largest training exercises held in the Pacific – will take place from mid-June in and around Guam, likely to include in the Northern Mariana Islands.

“There’s going to be some elements in Palau,” Nicholson said. Training will also take place at the former Andersen South military housing in Yigo – which is now being converted to an Urban Combat Training Complex.

Valiant Shield – which is typically a U.S. forces exercise – saw about 11,000 Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel, 100 aircraft, and several ships participating in the biennial exercise in 2020, including the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

Several exercises are scheduled for the fall, he told the paper. 

Photos by Maureen N. Maratita

Also, the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship, the USNS Mercy left San Diego May 3 bound for the region for Pacific Partnership 2022. The ship typically makes an annual visit to Micronesia. Partnership events typically include the building of schools, medical and engineering expert exchanges and host nation outreach events.

As to the demand for H-2 workers in Guam and their continued presence on military construction work, Nicholson told the Journal, “There’s quite a bit of discussion going on about the H-2 visas in D.C.” The admiral said the aim is not to have too much construction ongoing at the same time. Should that happen, he said, “Even our ability to do proper oversight of construction can be strained.”

The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced a $250 billion Multiple Award Construction Contract, for which responses to a pre-solicitation are due June 10. While that will add to the workload, Nicholson said some MilCon will be completed soon. “We have a large number of projects that we’re starting to wind down,” he said.

The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act contains $539 million for Guam’s defense, including land-based radar, procurement of weapons and MilCon.


Untalan named as Guam Business Magazine 2021 Executive of the Year

Photo by Justin Green

Edward G. Untalan, executive vice president and Guam-CNMI region manager of First Hawaiian Bank was named Guam Business Magazine’s 2021 Executive of the Year at a Reception on May 7 at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

Untalan, who joined FHB in 2004 after a career that took him from Bank of Guam to the Guam Economic Development Authority as administrator, was promoted to executive vice president in November 2021. Among his community service positions, he is chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, where he has been an elected board member since 2019; chairman of the TODU Guam Foundation, where he has also been a board member since 2019; and president of the Guam Bankers Association, where he has been a member since 2015.

Other nominees for this prestigious award include Ernesto V. “Jun” Espaldon Jr., president of Quick Services Foods Inc. and Fun Foods International Inc. which have do business as Wendy’s and Cold Stone Creamery, respectively; Herbert J. Johnston Jr., the education director of the GCA Trades Academy; Thomas W. Krise, president of the University of Guam, chairman of the Research Corp. of UOG, English professor at UOG and executive secretary of the UOG Endowment Foundation; Dr. Hoa V. Nguyen, principal partner and president of the American Medical Center LLC; and Hanseok “Nick” Song, president of Haevichi Hospitality Guam Inc., which does business as the Westin Resort Guam, and general manager of the Westin.


Japan foreign minister visits Palau to promote relationship in region

Photo courtesy of the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi visited Palau on May 8, and met with President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. The two confirmed the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, maintaining a stable fishing environment, supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific and investment in Palau.

The pair also attended the “Grand Opening Ceremony of Palau International Airport” that day.

Funded by a $27.8 million loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, in 2017, Palau signed a joint venture agreement with Sojitz Corp., the Japan Airport Terminal Co. Ltd. and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp. for Transport & Urban Development to extend and renovate the terminal at the airport, according to Journal files.

Construction was completed in 2021. Sojitz will manage and maintain the terminal.

The airport made improvement to it capacity for planes through the years. According to Journal files, the airport upgraded its secondary apron to double its capacity and allow for smoother and more efficient use of the facility by its air traffic, which include commercial, charter, cargo and military flights. The Federal Aviation Authority funded the apron and awarded work in phases.

Hayashi took office on Nov. 10, 2021. mbj