The United States Marine Corps officially opened a new USMC base, and their first new base since 1952. The base, called Camp Blaz, is located on the island of Guam. Over the next five years, approximately 5,000 Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa will shift from Japan to Guam, though only 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed there, with the other 3,700 Marines part of a rotational force.
Camp Blaz is named after Brig. Gen. Vicente “Ben” Tomas Garrido Blaz, a Guam native who served in the Marine Corps for twenty-nine years, and for four terms as Guam’s single delegate to the House of Representatives.
Guam is an unincorporated American territory—and very important to the United States Marine Corps’ future. Here’s why.
The Marine Corps’ new Pacific strategy calls for groups of highly mobile, Marines flitting around the Pacific. Armed to the teeth and on the lookout, these groups of Marines would be tasked with harassing the enemy in the event of another war in the Pacific.
This island-hopping strategy hearkens back to the Second World War, though one new element for the Corps is sinking ships by any means necessary. All of this is being planned with an eye on the Chinese Navy. This is because what the People’s Liberation Army Navy lacks in quality is at least partially made up for in quantity—China’s Navy is now the largest Navy in the world.
One of the linchpins to this new Pacific strategy is Guam. Marine Corps Commander Gen. David Berger explained how Guam factors into USMC strategy in the Pacific, saying “We have to spread out, we have to factor in Guam.”
He further explained that a wide dispersed force presence is crucial, stating, “We have to have a disbursed, distributed lay down in the Pacific that allows us to work with all the partners and allies and deter forces like the PLA from asserting themselves in a manner that tries to rewrite the global norms that have been well established in the past seventy years. So, our posture must change.”
Another factor worth considering are the rapid advancements being made in aviation. The Marine Corps current tiltrotor aircraft, the V-22 Osprey would struggle to land anywhere in Asia besides a few remote Pacific islands—but from Guam, at least one of the company’s prototypes, the V-247, could make it all the way to central China, not to mention the entire South China Sea.
In a hypothetical Pacific conflict, Guam could command a powerful position as one of the United States’ more centrally-located positions in the Western Pacific—and perhaps one of the Marine Corps’ more important bases in the future. Guam is likely to factor heavily into the Corps’ future Pacific presence.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.