Military helps Guam after typhoon; Air Force and Navy pause PCS moves

As the military remains deeply involved in recovery efforts on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the Navy and Air Force have suspended permanent change of station moves to its bases there as the region recovers from the damage wrought by Typhoon Mawar.

The category four cyclone ripped through the Pacific archipelago in late May, cutting power lines, uprooting trees and disrupting water supplies.

Personnel stationed at Naval Base Guam, Andersen Air Force Base and Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz — in concert with the Army guardsmen, reservists, the Coast Guard, FEMA and other agencies — have all been involved in recovery efforts, both military and civilian, and assisting local governments. A combined joint task force led by U.S. Army Pacific and Task Force West is spearheading the military’s efforts.

Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Task Force West, and all military installation commanding officers in Guam “are diligently working to restore steady state to the bases and dedicate resources to all FEMA mission assignments,” according to a Navy news release.

No new arrivals — for now

In a May 23 naval administrative message, Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman Jr., the chief of naval personnel, announced that the Navy would be pausing all PCS moves to Guam “for Navy uniformed members, civilians and their dependents” until June 30. Sailors PCSing out of the territory can leave as soon as they secure travel. The pause doesn’t apply to personnel slated for temporary additional duty.

The Air Force took a similar tack May 25, halting inbound PCS assignments to Andersen for 60 days “in order to ensure incoming service members and their families have adequate resources available to them,” an Air Force spokseperson told Military Times.

“The stop movement also gives 36th Wing leadership time to evaluate the damage done to our resources while also making sure we’re prepared to take care of the families that are due to PCS to Andersen,” the official added.

The PCS pause timeline may shift depending on the progress of relief efforts.

Neither service specified how many inbound airmen and sailors would be impacted by the pause or how it planned to accommodate service members en route to the island when the storm struck.

Marine spokespeople could not be reached for comment.

Military installations across Guam sustained damage during the storm. The extent of the damage and how long repairs will take is still not completely clear. Over half of the island’s 170,534 inhabitants still lacked electricity as of Thursday, according to the Guam Power Authority. The Guam Waterworks Authority estimated that roughly 30% of residents still don’t have access to clean water.

The typhoon’s record-breaking winds and rains caused upwards of $112 million in damage, according to initial tallies.

Military relief groups have raised close to $2 million for the 21,700 service members and dependents living in the territory.

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