The Marine Corps shares a rich history with the people of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, dating back to the landing of the first American forces on Guam in June 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Marine Barracks Guam was officially established in August 1898, and permanent structures were completed in the village of Sumay in 1901. The Marines maintained a continuous presence on Guam until December 1941, when the island was captured by forces Imperial Japanese at the start of World War II. On July 21, 1944, Marines and soldiers of the III Amphibious Corps landed on Guam and retook the island on August 10, concluding the Marianas Campaign. Marine Barracks Guam was reactivated on June 1, 1946 and deactivated on November 10, 1992. On October 1, 2020 Marine Barracks Guam was reactivated as Marine Corps Base, Camp Blaz continuing the long association between the U.S. Marines, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Corporal Donald Pangelinan is an Infantry Rifleman and Chamorro from Tanapag, a small village in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Tanapag played a major role in Marine Corps history when on June 15, 1944, Tanapag Beach was the landing site for Marines from the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, accompanied by soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 27th Division, during the amphibious assault on the fortified island defended by Imperial Japanese forces. The Battle of Saipan ended with the capture of the island by American forces on July 9, 1944, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

Pangelinan is currently a training NCO for Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Blaz. His responsibilities are to ensure that unit level training events are properly planned, coordinated and executed; that Marines have the opportunity to pursue professional military training; and they receive specialized training for their career advancement.

The base, currently under construction, is named after the late Brigadier General Vicente “Ben” Thomas Garrido Blaz, a native of Guam and the first CHamorro Marine to achieve the rank of general officer. He then became Guam’s elected delegate to Congress. MCB Camp Blaz is the first newly constructed Marine Corps base since 1952.

“Over the past couple of years, you always hear about people being able to put where they’re from on the map and that’s really an example for us, especially for us,” Pangelinan said. “Few people know the history of Guam, Saipan and other Mariana Islands; so it’s really cool to know that the base itself is named after a CHamorro.”

In 2018, Pangelinan graduated from Marianas High School in Saipan and knew he wanted to be a Marine. His inspiration came from his father, Dustin Pangelinan Sr., and his uncles, many of whom served in the US Marine Corps. Like him, his father served as an infantry rifleman and was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Dustin served with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as part of the 1st Marine Division and deployed twice to Iraq before being medically retired due to injuries sustained in Iraq in 2004.

In 2019, Corporal Pangelinan received his first posting after completing initial training for all entry-level infantry Marines. His first duty station – 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division; the same regiment in which his father previously served. A year later, in 2020, Pangelinan deployed with his unit to Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

“Although I came to the unit at a different time, many of the basic principles and key points that my father wanted me to learn and anticipate were all the same,” Pangelinan said. “Being part of the same things he went through at that point in his life, doing the same run to 1st Sergeant’s Hill, the same helipad, that was always on my mind that got me through that – Oh , if my father did this, so can I.

Pangelinan’s trip to the Marine Corps was his first time living alone and away from his family, an experience most Marines share. But unlike most Marines, living in the United States has been a major culture shock.

“I’m not going to lie, it was a really crazy experience and it wasn’t something the Marine Corps could have prepared me for and it wasn’t something my parents could have prepared me for; and my parents tried,” Pangelinan explained. “It was really me leaning on the Marines to my left and my right.”

To compound those feelings, Pangelinan was over 6,100 miles from home.

“I’m sure just as I helped them overcome the feeling of ‘homesickness’ they also helped me and we all looked after each other. You can’t put a value on the friendship and the sense of camaraderie that we all had,” Pangelinan said.

One Christmas, while visiting family in Saipan, Pangelinan was able to give his girlfriend Tatiana a present in a small brown box. Although she didn’t understand what she was looking at, he explained inside that his military orders required him to make a permanent change of duty station to MCB Camp Blaz.

Pangelinan is now married to Tatiana and they have a son. With their home now about 140 miles away, they take the opportunity to visit Saipan whenever they can. Pangelinan plans to serve in the Marine Corps for 20 years. Afterwards, he hopes to continue living in the continental United States until his son can graduate from high school.

“I would let joining the Marine Corps be my son’s choice and I would support him anyway,” Pangelinan said. “It’s not for everyone and I will support any decision he makes.”

March is Guam History and CHamorro Heritage Month, also known as Mes CHamoru, celebrating the unique culture, heritage and history of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Chamorros are the first inhabitants of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, descendants of Austronesians who arrived from Southeast Asia as early as 2000 BC.

Date taken: 29.03.2022
Date posted: 29.03.2022 19:13
Story ID: 417430

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