Hundreds of Pacific Islanders sent to Iraq.
In July 2004, the US government alerted more than 3,100 soldiers of
possible combat duty, 500 of whom are army reservists from Guam, Saipan,
American Samoa, and the neighbouring islands. For many of these
reservists, serving in the American military is a path to US
citizenship, which is not granted to Pacific Islanders at birth but can
be acquired through military service. With the increased commitment of
US military personnel in Iraq also comes increased pressure to recruit
more volunteers, and the promise of US citizenship and economic gains
have been attractive enlistment incentives for many Pacific Islanders.
While the American government maintains that they do not seek to employ
a mercenary army, this message is in stark contrast with President
George W. Bush's recent decision to expedite the citizenship
process for members of the armed forces on active duty. With hundreds of
Pacific Islanders on sortie in Iraq, Pacific Island communities are
besieged by critical personnel shortages. According to a July report in
the Saipan Tribune, 80 members of the Saipan police and fire departments
have already been called to duty in Iraq, with another 40 reservist officers still on-call.