The Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band performs at the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz reactivation and naming ceremony at Asan Beach, Guam, Jan. 26, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Garrett Gillespie.
For the first time in seven decades, the US Marine Corps is building a new military base, and now it’s been officially named.
During a ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 26, along Asan Beach in Guam, officials formally reactivated the partially built Naval Support Activity Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, continuing a forward-deployed presence for amphibious forces in the Indo-Pacific region.
The move stems from a 2012 decision by US and Japanese leaders to move the bulk of Marines off the island of Okinawa to Guam. That moves the troops roughly 1,230 nautical miles farther west from potential Chinese ballistic missile batteries.
“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. More than that, it shows our undivided relationship with the Government of Japan,” said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger during the ceremony.
Troops stand at attention during the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz reactivation and naming ceremony at Asan Beach, National Historical Park, Asan, Guam, on Jan. 26, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beauchamp.
But this is where it gets a little confusing.
Although it’s still being erected, Marines are treating the opening of Camp Blaz as a reactivation effort because a previous outpost on the island, Marine Barracks Guam, was deactivated on Nov. 10, 1992.
Those barracks were originally located along Apra Harbor in Sumay, which is now occupied by an elementary school for the children of Naval Base Guam. Camp Blaz is roughly 20 miles northeast of there, located near Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam amid the limestone jungles of the island’s northern plateau.
So it has no tangible connection to the former barracks, except that Marines once lived in them and 21st-century Marines will now reside in Camp Blaz, too.
The Marine Forces Pacific Band marches during the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz reactivation and naming ceremony at Asan Beach, National Historical Park, Asan, Guam, on Jan. 26, 2023. The ceremony officially recognized the activation and naming of Naval Support Activity Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz after Marine Barracks Guam was deactivated on Nov. 10, 1992. Camp Blaz was administratively activated on Oct. 1, 2020. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beauchamp.
And Thursday’s celebration wasn’t even the first activation ceremony for Camp Blaz.
That occurred on Oct. 1, 2020, marking it as the first major US Marine Corps installation to be opened since Logistics Base Albany was commissioned in Georgia in 1952.
Thursday’s proceedings officially named the base, which already had been titled during the administrative activation ceremony three years ago and which appears in reams of construction contracts churned out since then.
But the name is still important.
US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger speaks during the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz reactivation and naming ceremony at Asan Beach, Guam, Jan. 26, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Garrett Gillespie.
Camp Blaz honors the late Brig. Gen. Vicente “Ben” Tomás Garrido Blaz, the first Marine of CHamoru descent to reach the rank of flag officer.
A Republican, Blaz also represented Guam in Congress.
“I believe that on the horizon lies the opportunities that Ben wished for our people,” Guam Gov. “Lou” Leon Guerrero, a Democrat, told the audience. “No longer are we dealing with challenges and isolation, we are cultivating a more sustainable and comprehensive Indo-Pacific allyship.
“The future of Guam is inseparable from the future of the broader Indo-Pacific and the success of the Marines is inseparable from the success of Guam’s people,” she continued. “Together we are an island and an ocean united. Together we are always better and always stronger. Together we are always faithful. Semper Fidelis.”
Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Kimura Jiro speaks at the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz reactivation and naming ceremony at Asan Beach, Guam, Jan. 26, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Garrett Gillespie.
The movement of Marines to Guam is part of a larger geo-strategic shift for US forces responding to the rise of an increasingly powerful, and assertive, Chinese military.
On Jan. 11, the US and Government of Japan Joint Security Consultative Committee — commonly called the 2+2 because it involves the top diplomats and defense secretaries for each country — announced the exodus of 9,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa beginning next year, with the bulk going to Guam.
What once was an infantry-heavy Marine Corps force on Okinawa will be replaced with a slimmer 12th Marine Littoral Regiment featuring fewer grunts but more ship-killing missile batteries and anti-aircraft systems.
Guam will serve as a key logistical hub for US forces in the Indo-Pacific, especially if Marines and Japanese troops are asked to defend what’s called the first island chain from Chinese invasion.
US Marine Corps Sgt. John Finke, an aircraft ordnance technician, guides an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the “Bats” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242, during an expeditionary advanced base operation exercise at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 20, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jose Angeles.
That’s a string of islets, rocks, atolls, and reefs running from the Kamchatka Peninsula south through Taiwan, Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, to the Philippines and Malaysia.
As part of the ongoing realignment, US Marines have pledged to defend Japanese islands that are claimed by Beijing.
Japan is footing roughly a third of Camp Blaz’s construction costs, which are projected to reach $8.7 billion.
When completed, however, Camp Blaz promises to feature scores of new live-fire ranges, family residences, utility lines, administrative buildings, and an urban combat center.
“Today is an important day that marks the future of the Marines on Guam, and it is also a day to reflect on the century-long history of the Marine Corps in this beautiful place we call home,” said Col. Christopher Bopp, Camp Blaz’s commanding officer. "On this island, Marines and their CHamoru brethren have lived in peace and fought in war together and we are proud to carry on this legacy of honor and courage.”
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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