Thousands of U.S. military personnel are gathered in the region until Friday for the ongoing Valiant Shield training.
Officials say it’s all about honing and refining their craft, to answer the call for defense in the region, should it arise.
The military training started last Monday and goes until this Friday.
It’s a biannual U.S. only joint-forces training focused on making the military more networked, ready to respond to any need in the region.
Navy Rear Admiral James Aiken said: “It’s training at the high-end; it’s training for great-power competition.”
Participants include the USS Ronald Reagan, USS America, USS New Orleans, USS Germantown, and multiple surface ships.
Approximately 100 aircraft and an estimated 11,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps are participating in the exercise, most of whom are not stationed on Guam.
In a weekend news conference, officials said in addition to flexing their joint-force integration, the training is also meant to serve as a stabilizer and reassurance in the region for all U.S. allies.
Planning for the exercise actually began in 2018, right after the last Valiant Shield ended. However, as with every other part of regular life, this too, was affected by COVID-19.
“So, there’s been a number of things that we’ve had to change. We’ve distributed the force, we’ve scaled down some things we’ve done previously because of some of the COVID-challenges. But overall, we’re still operating at the highest level,” Admiral Aiken said.
And the planning also included safeguards for the personnel themselves and the greater military and Guam community.
Air Force Brigadier General Jeremy Sloane said: “One of the most extensive measures is that every unit and every deployer that comes in here is required to do a 14-day pre-quarantine or restriction of movement at their home station prior to getting here. And then, once they’re here, we’ve got them in tight restriction of movements – that really just allows them access to the base and their mission set that they’re operating amongst.”
Every person that comes into Guam must test negative to participate.
COVID or not, though, military officials say the forces have to be ready for what may come:
“In this time, whether or not it’s COVID, whether or not it’s storms, whether or not it’s any natural disasters, we have to be prepared, we have to be able to assure our allies, assure our partners, and also support the regional security,” Admiral Aiken said.
Officials say this training is in no way a response to any recent escalations in the South China Sea, nor do they believe that any tensions could be heightened because of it.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Brian Baldwin said: “I view this as regular business. It’s a great opportunity every two years to get the joint force together and train together in a high-end environment.”
Air Force Brigadier General Jeremy Sloane added: “The reason why you get to see exercises like Valiant Shield and others, is because we have a tremendous capability, a tremendous joint-team and an opportunity to show that we can overcome the tyranny of distance.”
This is the eighth exercise in the Valiant Shield series that began in 2006.