China plans to hold large-scale military exercises in the disputed South China Sea area around the same time as the U.S.-lead Quad Alliance struts its stuff around Guam.
Few details were available about the Chinese exercises, except that they are large and will involve live ammunition. Former People’s Liberation Army Colonel Yue Gang said the PLA’s drill was designed to send a message to the United States. “The Chinese military is responding to U.S. moves to team up with its allies – including when the UK and Germany carry out freedom of navigation operations in the region,” he said. “When the U.S. steps up its presence in the region, China has to respond and show its muscle,” he added.
During a speech in Singapore, Vice President Kamala Harris said that China was a menace to other countries in the region. She further decried its “unlawful” claims to the disputed South China Sea. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations,” she added.
India, Australia and Japan are the other three members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The upcoming Malabar drill, which is scheduled to last four days, comes on the heels of the DoD’s largest amphibious military exercise in 40 years.
Guam and China
This isolated dot in the Central Pacific has held considerable military significance for several countries for several hundred years.
Shortly after the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they fortified the island, as it was a stop on the Manilla galleon run. This fortification served two purposes. It prevented pirates from using the island’s natural harbors to harass shipping lanes. And, it protected the galleons from these same marauding pirates.
The Americans wrested control of the island from the decaying Spanish Empire in the brief, one-sided Spanish-American War of 1898. The aforementioned Philippine Islands were included in this deal, and Uncle Sam got a little more than he bargained for. Insurgents who had been fighting the Spanish turned their guns on the Americans. Guam became an important staging area in this ongoing conflict.
The Americans also had big plans for Guam as they contemplated a fight against Imperial Japan. But the Japanese occupied the island in 1941 and held it for the duration of the conflict. The conquering Japanese supposedly committed a number of atrocities against Guam’s native people, such as forcing the people into slavery.
Guam is about 2,000 miles from the disputed South China Sea. If war breaks out between China and the United States or its Pacific allies, the SCS will most likely be ground zero. Guam is the closest military base of any size to the South China Sea. It is close enough to be an effective forward operating base, yet far enough away to be safe from surprise attack.
The island has other uses as well. In the 1930s, PanAm built a radio tracking station on Guam and nearby Wake Island, to guide planes on trans-Pacific flights. Flying from San Francisco to Manilla in the 1930s was like flying from Florida to the Moon in the 1960s.
Contractors in Guam
PanAm used flying boats for its long-haul trips, since many destinations had inadequate or nonexistent airport facilities. The era of the big flying boat died with the Spruce Goose. So, today’s air and harbor facilities are very important. Contractors play a critical role in the construction and renovation of these facilities.
There is a spotlight on renovation and expansion in Guam. The island has numerous military facilities, but most of them date back to the Vietnam War era or even earlier. So, runways must be longer, hangars must be bigger, and, well, you get the idea.
Amenities are important as well. Many of the aforementioned PanAm workers were either college kids looking for adventure or displaced Great Depression workers desperate to make money. Those motivations do not last over time, so homesickness was a major problem on this isolated Pacific island.
The Americans, especially the American Navy, which is mostly in charge of the island, learned this lesson well. So, places like movie theaters and shopping pavilions are not afterthoughts. They are as necessary as a barracks.
Speaking of the Navy, the U.S. military and Guamites have never gotten along very well. Deep down, many Guamites still see the Ameericans as an occupying foreign fighting force. Prior Naval commanders had a nasty habit of acting like they owned the island, so relations deteriorated.
Contractors have none of this baggage. In fact, they are more like the PanAm workers, which many islanders have a soft spot for, because these workers vaulted Guam into the modern age.
Furthermore, private military contractors are important for preparedness reasons. Today’s sophisticated weapons need a great deal of specialized maintenance. American military academies and other training programs do not prepare people for activities like this. So, the DoD relies almost exclusively on contractors in these situations. That reliance is normally a good thing. Frequently, contractors worked at the companies which designed, built, and deployed the weapons they are working on.
Injury Compensation Available
Construction is usually at or near the top of those “most dangerous jobs” lists which appear in the media from time to time. Construction on Guam is even more hazardous. The island’s hospitals are little more than first aid stations. The closest large military hospital is probably in Hawaii, and that is not exactly close. So, by the time accident victims on Guam receive top-quality medical treatment, their conditions are often critical, even if the injury was not terribly serious.
When contractors get hurt, in order to obtain Defense Base Act benefits in the future, they must immediately report their injuries to their supervisors. Usually, this notice must be in writing, which means an email or text might be insufficient.
This requirement also applies to occupational disease claims, like repetitive stress or hearing loss. These claims are a bit more complex, however, since most of these victims do not immediately see doctors at the first sign of a health issue. Thanks to the delayed discovery rule, these victims usually do not need to report their injuries until they know the full extent of them and they connect them with their work environments.
At this point, a third party mediator usually presides at a settlement conference between the victim’s attorney and insurance company. In relatively minor injury cases, like a broken leg, the matter often settles at this point. However, in the vast majority of cases, there are thorny issues which a mediator cannot resolve. So, the case goes to the next level.
This next level is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Much like federal or state judges, ALJs can consider evidence and legal arguments in making their decisions. As a result, victims have an excellent chance of obtaining fair compensation. This compensation usually includes lost wage replacement and medical bill payment.
To learn more about these financial benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.