Marines participate in festivities on Guam
Marines and sailors engaged with community leaders and residents during Discovery Day festivities March 9 in Umatac, Guam, during Exercise Guahan Shield.
This year’s Discovery Day Festival took place the first two weekends in March and provided residents and visitors a chance to take part in festivities, such as coconut husking, a spear-fishing challenge, cultural games, local artisan exhibits and modern dance performances.
“Umatac has been hosting this event since the 1960s, and to be able to reinvigorate the community, bring in our local artisans and entertainers, as well as the military, is really something we truly appreciate,” said Vera Topasna, vice chair of the Umatac Planning Council.
Marines regularly conduct and take part in community relations activities and engagements while participating in training exercises. However, Guahan Shield offers the unique experience for those types of events on U.S. soil, something unique for Marines deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Community relations events are a very important part of any exercise, according to Maj. Rob Thomas, officer in charge of the forward command element for Guahan Shield. Engaging with community leaders and residents allows a foundation to be built between military units and the communities, and relationships to be developed that typically last throughout the exercise and for many years to come.
Discovery Day provided the perfect opportunity.
About 300 Marines and sailors are participating in Exercise Guahan Shield, which is designed to facilitate multiservice engagements, set conditions for bilateral training opportunities, and support rapid response to potential crises and contingency operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The service members are formed under the unique unit designation of Combat Logistics Detachment 39, which is comprised of elements of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment; and 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Company L is serving under the unit deployment program.
Several Umatac residents are prior or retired Marines, and having the Marines with Guahan Shield present for the festivities was extra special, according to Topasna, who is also the wife of a retired Marine.
While the primary purpose of an exercise is training and readiness, the Marine Corps is committed to building relationships and maintaining and improving its relationship with local communities through community relations events, according to Thomas.
“Taking a break during training commitments for an event like this is an integral part of the exercise package,” said Thomas. “The importance of community engagements and being a good neighbor in and out of uniform are important ideals the Marine Corps hopes to instill in every Marine.”