The Marine Corps has activated a new base on Guam for 5,000 members of III Marine Expeditionary Force set to move there over the next five years from Okinawa, Japan.
Camp Blaz, near Andersen Air Force Base, is the first new Marine installation since Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany was commissioned in Georgia on March 1, 1952, according to a Marine Corps statement announcing the activation this week.
"As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we … will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources," the camp's first commander, Col. Bradley Magrath, said in the statement.
The activation comes at a time of rising tensions in the Pacific as China presses claims to sea territory and builds military forces that threaten U.S. forces stationed in the region.
Camp Blaz is named in honor of the late Marine Brig. Gen. Vicente "Ben" Tomas Garrido Blaz, a Guam native.
"Blaz' legacy reflects the strong relationship that the Marine Corps and the people of Guam have shared since the establishment of the Marine Barracks [on Guam] in 1899," the Marines said in their statement.
The new base is still under construction in an area known as Finegayan on land that, until recently, was covered in a thick jungle full of snakes and littered with World War II-era bombs and bullets.
The Japanese government is funding $3 billion worth of projects for the Marines' relocation, with the U.S. government spending another $5.7 billion, Navy Cmdr. Brian Foster, who is helping oversee construction for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, told Stars and Stripes during a tour of the new base in February.
Only 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed on Guam, with another 3,700 coming to the island as a rotational force in the same way a Marine Air Ground Task Force deploys to Australia's Northern Territory to train each summer, he said.
The heart of Camp Blaz, where six-story barracks will be built for unaccompanied Marines, is next door to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam, just west of Andersen. Families of Marines working on Blaz will live on Andersen, where another 300 housing units will be built, Foster said.
The facility will include several new ranges, including a "multipurpose" machine gun range along Guam's northwestern coast. An abandoned housing area, known as Andersen South, is being turned into an urban training compound for the Marines, he said.
Facilities for the Marines' aviation element are being built at Andersen's North Ramp, Foster said.
The formal establishment of Camp Blaz secures a Marine Corps posture in the region that is geographically distributed and operationally resilient, the Marines said in their statement.
"Camp Blaz will play an essential role in strengthening the Department of Defense's ability to deter and defend and is also a testament to the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance," the Marines said.
The Marines will hold an activation ceremony for the base in spring 2021, the statement said.