The U.S. Marine Corps officially opened a new base on the Mariana Island of Guam, which is a U.S. territory. The new base serves as the latest sign of the bolstering Marine presence in the Indo-Pacific region, and the expanding effort to counter China’s expansion in the region.
The new Marine Corps base is called Camp Blaz and is positioned on the northern plateau of the small island territory, next to Andersen Air Force Base.
The base began construction in 2020 and recently finished initial construction. MCB Blaz began operations this week with the base’s inaugural commanding officer, Col. Christopher Bopp, holding its naming ceremony on Asan Beach on Thursday.
Camb Blaz is the first newly constructed Marine Corps base in 70 years. Guam was chosen as the location for the new base in 2012, as part of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Japanese to relocate some U.S. Marines from Okinawa.
The formation of the new base comes as the Marine Corps has been reorganizing and repositioning its forces throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Earlier this month, the Marine Corps announced it would reconfigure its 12 Marine Regiment into a new Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR), a new force structure designed for island hopping and harassing enemy naval forces in the Indo-Pacific region.
As the Marine Corps announced plans to form the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment (12th MLR), the service indicated it sees Guam as an important logistics hub for future operations in the Indo-Pacific. The Washington Post recently reported the Marine Corps is also planning on converting the 4th Marine Regiment into an MLR and stationing it on Guam.
In their MLR concept, the Marine Corps envisions a self-deployable, multi-domain force that can carry out maritime maneuvers. Each MLR will consist of three components; a littoral combat team made up of an infantry battalion and anti-ship missile battery; an anti-air battalion; and a logistics battalion. The MLRs will be tasked with establishing expeditionary bases in austere island environments from which they can conduct strikes and conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) to support friendly naval surface warfare combatants.
This prepositioning of bases and units throughout the Indo-Pacific region indicates the U.S. is preparing for a conflict in that region with a near-peer enemy. China is the rising military power in the region and represents the most likely potential adversary that the Marine Corps is reorganizing to counter.
“Forward, persistent presence is key to the regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz is a critical part of that,” Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger said on Thursday.
Camp Blaz is named after Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas “Ben” Garrido Blaz, who the first Marine of Chamorro descent to attain the rank of a general officer. The Chamorro people are the indigenous population of the Mariana Islands. Blaz was a child living on Guam when Japanese forces seized control of the island and held control over it for three years during World War II. Blaz went on to serve in the Marines from 1951 to 1980. At one point, Blaz served as the commanding officer of the 9th Marine Regiment, which played a key role in Guam’s liberation during World War II.
While the U.S. and Japan fought over Guam in World War II, Camp Blaz will serve as a component of the U.S.-Japan alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
Japanese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshikawa Yuumi attended the Camp Blaz naming ceremony on Thursday and said, “The Japan and U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of the people, the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the linchpin of Japan’s foreign policy.”
The U.S. may use its ties with regional allies like Japan and Australia, and partnerships with other Indo-Pacific nations to form a containment coalition against Chinese expansion in the region.