Guam is a U. S. Territory and its residents are proud U. S. citizens. Service members and families assigned to Guam for the first time will immediately note both the friendliness and patriotism of the people here. Unlike most Americans, some Guam residents have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to have an occupying force on their land. For that reason, they and their families cherish the liberties and understand the responsibilities of being an American even more than most in the states.
Guam has been a settled island for at least several centuries. The indigenous people of Guam are the Chamorros, who may have settled here in Micronesia after sailing from ancient Polynesia or Indonesia. The Chamorros also settled a few of the nearby islands of Micronesia.
The first European explorers to these islands described the Chamorros as tall and statuesque people, excellent sailors, skilled farmers and fishermen, astute traders and talented warriors. Spanish settlement of the island of Guam and the subjugation of the natives altered the culture and inter-marriage changed the appearance of the people. Wars and the deaths of almost all the males changed the bloodlines and family names. Over four hundred years of Spanish control shaped and changed the Chamorro people significantly, but those on the island and around the world today are still proud to be Chamorro, cherish their native roots, and appreciate others who respect them, while still proud to be Americans too.
Not all the people of Guam have ancestors from the island. Other cultures have settled and prospered here since the Spanish, including mainland and Hawaiian Americans, Filipinos, Micronesians from other islands, Japanese, Koreans, Australians and others. Some came for work or entrepreneurial opportunities, some because of the tropical beauty and lifestyle, but all seem share a friendliness and spirit of working together to make Guam a better place.
Friendliness and giving are the spirit of Guam and the Chamorro people. A great place to see that are in the fiesta celebrations held across the island. Fiestas are more-the-merrier affairs, hosted by villages in honor of patron saints or by families in the spirit of celebration and hospitality. Those who join in are welcomed, fed delicious food, and made to feel a part of the community and family.
At 13.6 degrees North, Guam has a year-round tropical climate with warm temperatures and high humidity. The normal low temperature each day is 74-77 degrees and the normal high temperature is 85-88 degrees. Humidity often reaches 85-89 percent each day.
There are two seasons in Guam—rainy and dry. The average yearly rainfall in Guam is 86 inches, which is about 30% more than falls in Miami, Florida. The rainy season begins in July and lasts until December. Unlike England or Seattle, lots of rain does not equate to days of overcast clouds. Usually the rain falls (in buckets) for a short period of time and then the sun comes back out. The rainy season is also the season when the possibility of a typhoon exists.
Typhoons, tropical cyclones (like hurricanes), develop in warm tropical waters of the Western Pacific Ocean. Typhoons can bring both torrential rain and destructive winds. The strongest typhoons can bring wind speeds of over 175 mph. Supertyphoon Pongsona struck Guam in 2002, causing millions of dollars of damage and the loss of some utilities for months for some residents. On an average year, three typhoons pass within 180 miles of Guam. Because of the threat of typhoons, homes and facilities on Guam are generally built of concrete and windows are often hardened or protected by “typhoon shutters.” Residents are urged to prepare for a possible typhoon by stocking up on essential and emergency items.
Opportunity for Travel
Guam’s location in the Western Pacific makes it a great place to travel from. Scuba divers looking for the best diving in the world can take a relatively short flight to Chuuk, Pohnpei, or Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia, shoppers can venture to Bali or Hong Kong. Other popular destinations for service members and families include Australia, Singapore, Japan, Korea and China. Through its Tickets and Tours service, MWR offers lots of great deals and options. Other travel services, diving companies, and the airlines also have packages and special deals. Duty in Guam can mean a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Asia and Oceania.
Dependents of military members assigned to Guam are eligible to attend Department of Defense Educational Activity (DODEA) schools. DODEA/DODDS schools are known as some of the best in the United States, with dedicated, highly qualified teachers, a broad curriculum, and a student-teacher ratio far better than found in most public schools. Guam DODEA schools also participate in both local and DoDDS-Pacific sports associations.
As you might imagine, Guam is an ocean-lover’s dream. No other military assignment will offer the diving opportunities Guam does. For those who don’t yet dive, snorkeling offers an opportunity to see and swim with the fish and flora most have only seen in tropical fish tanks. For those who prefer to stay dry, open ocean fishing is very popular and large game fish are ready to challenge your skills. Both the Navy and the Air Force have 18-hole golf courses, and several other golf courses, including ocean-side courses fashioned by top course designers, are available for play.
Shopping and Food
Residents benefit from Guam’s status as a tourist destination and the island’s several cultural influences. Shopping opportunities include everything from high-end boutique shops in hotel row (Chanel, Burberry, Cartier, etc.) to local craft shops. There are numerous specialty import shops from Asia and familiar names like K-Mart and Macy’s too. Both the Naval Base and Andersen AFB have large exchanges, with a wide variety of familiar items at excellent prices.
There is also a wide variety of outstanding restaurants, many with the Asian and island influences you would expect, but also many familiar names from the mainland. Some military clubs and many of the large hotels offer expansive buffets, with fresh fruit, desserts, and drinks generally included. Along with numerous restaurants offering teppanyaki, teriyaki, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Chamorro specialties, residents can also choose places like Subway, KFC, Denny’s, Outback and Lone Star Steakhouses, Ruby Tuesdays, Planet Hollywood and Sam Choy’s.
Who could ask for a better place to be stationed? About 4,000 Sailors - including 2,000 Navy personnel serving on ships, submarines and aircraft - are stationed on Guam. In addition to about 6,500 Navy dependents and another 2,000 civilians in the Navy workforce, there are literally thousands of retired and reserve Navy personnel and their families residing in Guam. They have all heard the call of the islands and enjoy a great life where America's day begins.