Can we say, “Finally!” Actually, I still remember days a long time ago when the Navy did send in their patrols into the bars and clubs.
The patrols — made up of uniformed sailors from Guam-based units and visiting ships — are meant to look out for misbehavior and problems among servicemembers out in town, said Capt. Michael Bates, the force judge advocate for Joint Region Marianas.
The patrols began last Friday night and are not in response to any major incident in recent weeks, Bates said in a phone interview Wednesday. Rather, he said, it’s a way to “promote a safer environment,” akin to shore patrols the Navy routinely dispatches during port calls around the world.
The idea came after meetings between Navy officials, Guam police and other local government officials, Bates said.
“It’s a good relationship,” said Shawn Gumataotao, a spokesman for Guam Gov. Felix Camacho, who said the governor supports the plan.
Sen. Tina R. Muna-Barnes said she also supports the patrols.
“I think it’s a good collaboration,” she said.
Sailors on patrol will not carry weapons and will not have any policing authority, Bates said. They will have the ability to direct servicemembers back to base if needed.
“There’s no plan for them to apprehend sailors,” he said. “It’s meant to benefit the sailors and to create and promote a safer environment. It’s their role to rein them in.”
Airmen from Andersen Air Force Base are not participating in the patrols, Bates said, primarily because shore patrols are not part of Air Force culture.
The patrols will occur mainly in Tumon Bay and in Tumuning, Bates said. They will be out from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and on the days preceding holidays, he said.
Both Gumataotao and Bates said the patrols are not in preparation for the military’s buildup on Guam, which is meant to bring more than 9,000 servicemembers to the island.
Shore patrols will now be a fixture in Guam’s main bar areas, Navy and island officials say.