MINOT AIR FORCE BASE - Currently, more than 200 people from Minot Air Force Base and several B-52 bombers are in Guam, the island that North Korea warns is a potential missile target, as well as other areas.
The Minot AFB contingency left the Minot base March 30 for its deployment to Andersen AFB in Guam. The deployment is part of the ongoing military effort to provide a continuous bomber presence in the Western Pacific, according to base officials.
The Minot AFB group includes members of the 23rd Bomb Squadron, one of two B-52 squadrons at the Minot base, six B-52s and members of the 5th Maintenance Group.
Airman 1st Class Kevin Carmel, 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Minot Air Force Base, prepares a B-52 Stratofortress for takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam April 2, shown in this Air Force photo. Minot AFB personnel and several B-52s arrived in Guam about two weeks ago as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Western Pacific.
On Friday at 6:35 a.m. (Guam's time is 15 hours ahead of Minot), the Pacific Daily News in Guam reported Guam's civilian emergency agencies the day before had stepped up a campaign for island residents to be prepared, while the Pentagon assured that any North Korean missile strike would be thwarted.
The Joint Information Center in Guam, the newspaper reported, said the island remained under "yellow condition" the day before (April 11 in Guam). "Yellow conditions" advises residents to prepare for a potential emergency but to continue their normal routines. Police there tested a siren system this week so that if an emergency would arise, the siren would be sounded and an amplified voice message would tell people to find shelter.
If an incident occurs, the Pacific Daily News said the military will immediately call the governor, who then will simultaneously place the island in red condition, meaning North Korea has launched a missile, but it may not be headed toward the island. The Joint Information Center then would immediately notify the people of Guam through the alert siren system and by several other means to take shelter where they are at the time, whether it's in their homes, in schools or in workplaces.
The Department of Defense announced last week it was moving the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery, or THAAD, a land-based missile defense system, to Guam to protect the island against any medium-range missiles from North Korea.
The El Paso Times in Texas reported this week that Army soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, were preparing for the mission with the THAAD, the latest in Army missile-defense technology, and a system that has never been deployed in an actual operation, instead of just a test.
Guam, a U.S. territory, is about 2,100 miles southeast of North Korea and has a population of about 160,000 people. The island is about 36 miles long and 6 to 12 miles wide. It is home to Andersen AFB and U.S. Navy facilities, with a total of about 6,000 U.S. military people.
Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said he had received assurances from U.S. military commanders on the island that defenses were "strong and adequate," according to the online Inquirer News.
CNSNEWS.com reported that Guam's KUAM reporter Jolene Toves said early Friday that this is the first time since the Japanese invasion during World War II that Guam's safety has been threatened.
The continuous bomber presence of U.S. Air Force bombers and personnel, including those from Minot Air Force Base, in the Western Pacific has been ongoing since March 2004, Minot AFB officials said.