Words from the Forward Operating Location

  • Published
  • By Maj. Mark Riselli
  • 509th Expeditionary Maintenance Operations Squadron commander
Hafa Adai (greetings) from the Niner Forward Operating Location, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. With three months of this deployment complete, we've succeeded in accomplishing many of our pre-deployment goals and have also fielded many additional taskings and projects with professionalism. As this bomber forward presence rotation marks the B-2's third long duration deployment in fleet history, many 509'ers have had the opportunity to visit Guam - but, for those who have not yet done so, I'd like to share some quick & interesting facts about the island, recent military activity and finally share some deployed accomplishments.

The Territory of Guam, the largest and southernmost of the Marianas Islands, is located in the Western Pacific Ocean and is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States. According to the 2000 census, the 209.85 sq mi island is home to more than 154,805 residents. With a Gross Domestic Product of $3.2 billion (2000 estimate), Guam's economy depends primarily on tourism, Department of Defense installations, and locally owned businesses. The Territory of Guam has an interesting history which begins when the Chamorros, Guam's indigenous inhabitants, first populated the island approximately 6,000 years ago. The island's history also includes European colonialism beginning in 1668 with the arrival of Spanish missionaries. The United States gained control of the island during the 1898 Spanish-American War. During World War II, armed forces of Japan invaded Guam on Dec. 8, 1941. The United States military fought to recapture the island from Japanese military occupation in the Battle of Guam on July 21, 1944. To this day, Guam remains the only piece of U.S. soil with a sizeable population (in the thousands) to have ever been occupied by a foreign military power. Following World War II, the Guam Organic Act of 1950 provided the structure of the island's civilian government and granted the people U.S. citizenship.

The United States military has played a large role on island for many years as the multiple installations here are among the most strategically vital in the Pacific region. The Department of Defense maintains facilities & bases spanning 39,000 acres or 29% of the island's total land area. Military activity at Andersen AFB has ebbed and flowed over the years from the arrival of rotational Strategic Air Command bomber rotations in the 1960s to full-scale B-52 bomber operations in 1972 when Operation Linebacker II was launched. More recently, Andersen AFB became a part of PACAF in 1989 and the end of the Cold War brought the 60th Bomb Squadron's B-52 flying operations to an end in 1990. In June of 1991 the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines brought more than 18,000 American refugees from Clark Air Base to Guam. Andersen Air Force base was called on once again for this role in 1996 when 6,000 Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq passed through Guam on their way to the United States. Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Andersen AFB handled a tremendous surge of aircraft on their way to the fight against terror. From March to June 2003 the 7th Air Expeditionary Wing activated, setting the stage for the 36th Air Base Wing's eventual transformation into the 36th Air Expeditionary Wing in February 2004 when rotational bomber and tanker units first began arriving. Along with the construction boom at Andersen over the last few years, the 36th Air Base Wing's 2006 redesignation as a Wing was firm evidence that the organization had entered a new stage in its history.

The deployed men and women of the 509th Bomb Wing are contributing to the latest chapter of Andersen AFB history. Our third bomber forward presence rotation to Guam has generated over 100 sorties totaling 500 flying hours. Of note, six of these sorties were long duration Global Power sorties one of which made history as the first-ever electronic re-tasking of a B-2. We have assisted in hosting numerous distinguished visitors by presenting B-2 static displays and briefings. Recent visitors have included General Chandler, PACAF/CC, U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and U.S. Senator Daniel Inouyue (D-HI) . We have also been active members of the community while deployed by supporting activities on and off-base -- most notable being the 393rd Bomb Squadron's planning and execution of an Operation Linebacker II memorial service honoring the 33 airmen lost during that campaign.

In sum, your deployed teammates have been doing exceptional work in a strategic location. We are certainly far flung from Knob Noster, Missouri, but hopefully this short read shares with you a better sense of the significance of the mission and its place in history. We look forward to completing a successful rotation and returning to Whiteman AFB!