Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno, Guam Pacific Daily News
11 January 2016
When it comes to projecting U.S. military might in the Asia Pacific, B-52 bomber aircraft flyovers from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base have been part of the more recent displays.
On Saturday, a B-52 from Andersen flew low over South Korea, near the North Korean border, in what the U.S. Air Force Pacific Command leadership called a “response to a recent nuclear test by North Korea.”
Last weekend’s B-52 flyover near the North Korean border “was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland,” said Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander U.S. Pacific Command.
In addition to B-52s that are sent on rotational deployments in Guam, there are less visible, yet stealthy fast-attack submarines home ported in Guam that also are key to the nation’s defense – thousands of miles from the mainland’s coasts.
Rear Admiral Fritz Roegge, Hawaii-based commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Force, discussed the role of the Guam-based submarines and their submariners on Monday during his first official Guam visit since appointed to the position in September.
“This is where the action is,” Roegge said. “The boats that are here have a high operating tempo of doing the kinds of missions that submarines have always done and that submariners care most about; the kind of missions they get to do for national security.”
The Guam-based Submarine Squadron 15 has increased its capabilities since last year.
After having carried out missions with three Guam-based submarines for years, a fourth, the USS Topeka fast-attack submarine, was permanently stationed to Guam in May. Guam-based submarines have the capability to vertically launch cruise missiles.
The Defense Department also announced last month that USS Emory S. Land would be home ported at the Naval Base Guam, doubling the number of submarine repair and resupply ships home ported on the island. Submarine tender USS Frank Cable has been based in Guam for years now.
The Defense Department leadership recognized the value of beefing up submarine presence in Guam about 10 years ago, before President Obama announced a “pivot” to shift more military resources to the Asia Pacific, Roegge said.
The decision to increase submarine presence in Guam preceded more recent international reports of the South China Sea territorial dispute and North Korea’s recent nuclear testing.
However, those events “certainly validated the wisdom of having the submarines forward-deployed here,” Roegge said.
“Being positioned here in Guam has our submarines much closer to areas of interest ... not just to the United States, but also to the entire international community who all have an interest in ensuring that the law and the freedom of the seas are respected,” Roegge said.
“The demands on the submarine force to be able to do missions that are important to national security, in places that are far from our main coast, validate the benefit of that presence,” Roegge said.
His Guam visit also is meant to highlight a “Go Guam” campaign to encourage submariners to choose a Guam deployment, because not many people who grew up on the mainland know about the beauty of the island, he said. When submariners aren’t on duty, Guam has a lot to offer, including a supportive community and various outdoor activities, such as hiking and diving, he said.
Roegge’s responsibilities include submarine assets in San Diego, Hawaii, Diego Garcia, Guam and Yokosuka, Japan. He was commodore of Submarine Squadron 22, with additional duty as commanding officer, Naval Support Activity in Italy.