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96 EBS wins award, improves community relations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Tucker
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
"Humbled, honored and ecstatic," said Lt. Col. John Edwards, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander, when asked how he felt when his unit was presented with the Guam Chamber of Commerce Na'La' Bonita Award June 29.

The mission of the Na'La' Bonita Guam Program is to beautify Guam with a community anti-litter and beautification program that creates public awareness and community involvement between the Chamber, the Government of Guam and the local community.The award recognizes businesses, individuals and organizations that contribute to improving the quality and beauty of the island.

The 96 EBS, deployed here in support of Andersen's Continuous Bomber Presence, received the award for their outstanding commitment to keeping local beaches clean, safe and beautiful, an initiative fondly dubbed the 9+6 Beach Clean-Up.

"After Ray Tenorio, Lieutenant Governor of Guam, mentioned his Guam Beautification Taskforce at the 36th Wing Dining Out, we found a natural point of synergy between the military and the Government of Guam's Department of Parks and Recreation," Colonel Edwards said. "Some discussions and a shared desire to support the all-important military-civilian relationship led to the development of the 9+6 Beach Clean-Up effort."

Recognizing the value in the goals of the Guam Beautification Taskforce and taking advantage of the opportunity to build lasting bonds with members of the local community, the bomber squadron readily committed to the pairing and got to work.

"Currently, we have completed 11 clean-ups," the colonel said. "We have collected approximately 8,000 pounds of garbage, moved more than 9,000 pounds of concrete to reinforce an eroding shoreline and contributed more than 495 personnel hours to the project."

When Phil Flores, Guam Chamber of Commerce member and chairman of the Na'La' Bonita Program, became aware of the strides made by the visiting unit, he was more than happy to recognize them for their above-and-beyond contribution to island-wide beautification.

"Answering our Lt. Governor's call to arms on his Guam Beautification Taskforce these individuals have devoted many of their weekends to exploring Guam's beautiful beaches and taking up a pledge to ensure that they're safeguarded along with the rest of our great country," he said. "Not long after their arrival in April of this year, the group began tirelessly picking up trash and debris along Guam's coastline."

Mr. Flores also believes in the bridge-building power of island beautification and its ability to serve as a testament to future military-community relations.

"You hear some people who are afraid of the military build-up because they think it will have a negative impact on the island's environment," he said. "The 96 EBS were a prime example of what a positive effect the military can have here on Guam."

Colonel Edwards echoed Mr. Flores' sentiments and expressed a desire to visit new-found friends in the coming months and years.

"Aside from cleaner beaches, we at the 96 EBS hope to leave behind stronger military-civilian relationships and an example of what we can achieve together," he said. "It has been a great and unique opportunity for the Red Devils, and we look forward to returning to Guam in the future."