Marines to leave Okinawa…..maybe!
Thousands of US Marines will be redeployed to Guam as Japanese and American leaders work to reduce the burden on Okinawa Prefecture.
The headlines shouting the transfer of III Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters from Camp Courtney to Guam, together with 7,000 administrative, logistics and support troops, have generated a lot of excitement. The $4 billion plan would create new housing, schools, training areas, a hospital and even new bases in Guam, with troops beginning the move in 2008.The Catch that could sink the entire deal:
Moving the Marines is linked to moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to Camp Schwab on the island’s northside, and that is anything but certain. While everyone wants Futenma out of the crowded metropolitan Ginowan area, seemingly nobody wants it anywhere in Okinawa.
Governor Keiichi Inamine is the point man in a crusade to stymie the Marines airfield move anywhere within his prefecture. Simply stated, he wants it gone completely.
Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy undersecretary of Defense for Asia-Pacific Affairs, says the 2012 date is a target, but emphasized that there will be no Marines moved if the Futenma construction is not achieved.Base employees speaking out:
Lost in the shuffle of the new security treaty being developed between Japan and the US are the voices of nearly 9,000 individuals who work for the US forces in Okinawa.
They’re the ones facing losses of jobs if the agreement goes through, and 7,000 Marines are removed from Okinawa. Bases realignment would strip many of the positions, placing Okinawans out of work at a time when the economy is lagging. The Japanese government currently pays the local nationals working on U.S. bases, and employees know they’ll not have jobs if the Americans pull out.
“Don’t tell the military to go home,” says one base worker. Another speaks out “The Americans are here for our safety. Let’s keep them.” Still another tells politicians to “please understand” the workers need their jobs.
Positions on the American bases are lucrative, well paying, and offer significant bonuses and benefits. More than 20,000 applicants vie for the 200~300 new positions each year.
The base workers say they’re afraid they’ll be hearing the dreaded “You’re fired” soon. Normally it is difficult to fire anyone working on the bases, because their union representation is strong. But with troop reductions and III Marine Expeditionary Force moving from Okinawa, there won’t be any protection.