POSTED: 18 MAY 2008 - 87:30pm HST
More troops may train at Pohakuloa
Army could double live fire training on the Big Island

image above: Base for Army's Pohakuloa range facility. On

Military seeks comment on expansion plan

by Bret Yager on 18 May 18, 2008 in Stephens Media

The Army could double live fire training on the Big Island and increase the number of soldiers in the state by 3,000 under a draft plan released for public comment.

The draft environmental impact statement examines three alternatives for increasing combat service or combat support troops by 1,000 to 3,000 at bases in Hawaii -- part of a plan to increase and realign forces in the Pacific Theater.

The Army may also add a 2,500- to 2,900-man combat air brigade that would do helicopter machine gun and rocket training at Pohakuloa Training Area.
The first alternative would add 1,000 soldiers, the second alternative would add 3,000 soldiers, and the third alternative would add the 80- to 100-helicopter aviation brigade.

The soldiers would be based at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter, and would train at Pohakuloa.

The scenarios include increasing forces at Alaska facilities by 330 to 2,000 soldiers. The Army is also considering a "no action" alternative. The plan is part of a much larger Army transformation from divisions of 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers to smaller, rapidly deployable brigade combat teams.

The public has until June 30 to comment on the draft.

"We're soliciting public input so we can see what the issues are out there," said Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for U.S. Army Pacific Region. "From there, depending on the number and type of concerns, it'll take us a couple of months to address the concerns and publish a final EIS. We're probably looking toward the end of the summer."

Alternative one would have only minor impacts on the environment, noise levels, and biological and cultural resources. The second and third alternatives would have significant but manageable impacts to air quality, biological resources and noise levels, according to the EIS.

Stationing an air brigade would more than double the rounds fired at Pohakuloa's aviation gunnery range. It would also mean an upgrade and expansion of the present aviation gunnery range, known as Range 20, including new targets and installation of an aviation weapons scoring system.

The helicopters would fly from Wheeler Army Airfield, and crews would fire rockets and practice with machine guns from the chopper doorways at Pohakuloa. The helicopters would generally fly at about 300 feet on the maneuver from Wheeler Army Airfield to Pohakuloa Training Area, and the increase in flights would mean an increase in noise. The helicopters generally fly over the ocean but could pass over residential areas, the EIS states.

The blast radius from rocket fire would "dramatically increase" the risk of fires, according to the draft. But the range will continue a fire-control regimen that includes fire breaks and fuel breaks, dip ponds for helicopter fire fighting and controlled burns to manage vegetation.

Live-fire training and ordnance detonation would also kick up dirt and dust.
"We're looking at all of the possible impacts; it's not that all of these things are going to happen," Shanks said. "We're trying to see if it's even feasible for us to do this."

Range 20 is within Pohakuloa's 51,000-acre impact area but several miles south of four sites where cold war-era depleted uranium is believed to be. The aviation gunnery range contains unexploded ordnance that would have to be cleared to make way for the expansion.

"If you look at the type of units being considered, you're talking mainly about combat support, engineers, truck companies, military police -- not infantry or artillery units," Shanks said. "So these are the same folks we would call on in a natural disaster like a hurricane."

Pohakuloa's wide open training areas give the Army a "unique location" in the Pacific Theater for large-scale combined arms maneuver training, according to the EIS.

Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and special operations forces train at Pohakuloa using a wide variety of weapons, including anti-tank weapons, mortars, field artillery, air defense artillery, machine guns, rockets, demolitions and small arms.

Public comments on the draft environmental impact statement may be sent to

P.A.O. U.S. Army Environmental Command
Attention: IMAE-PA

Building E4460, 5179 Hoadley Road,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

phone: (410) 436-2556
fax: (410) 436-1693.



POSTED: 24 APRIL 2008 - 7:30am HST

Army to keep Stryker brigade in Hawaii

image above: Sign for Mauna Kea State Park belies the nature of its future

by Audrey McAvoy on 16 April 2008 in The Army Times

The Army on Tuesday said it has made a final decision to base a Stryker brigade at Schofield Barracks on Oahu and to train the unit at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island, citing strategic advantages provided by the islands.

The conclusion comes even though environmentalists have raised concerns about the unit’s 19-ton Stryker vehicles damaging Hawaii’s fragile environment and cultural sites.

The service first decided to base the brigade in Hawaii several years ago as part of an Army-wide effort to be ready for rapid deployment to hotspots around the world. In 2005, it started transforming a light infantry brigade at Schofield into a Stryker brigade, a unit of 4,000 soldiers and 310 eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles.

But the Army was forced to reconsider its decision in response to a federal appeals court order. The judges said the Army needed to prepare an environmental impact statement that thoroughly analyzed alternatives to basing the force in Hawaii before it reached a conclusion.

The Army study, which was completed in February, considered basing the brigade in Alaska or Colorado.

On Tuesday, the Army said in a press release Hawaii was selected because the islands allow the military to meet its strategic defense and national security needs.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S. Army, Pacific, said the decision would send a powerful signal to friends and enemies that the U.S. is committed to its interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Stryker brigade’s capabilities significantly increase our ability to win any conflict in the Pacific,” Mixon said. “We know that Hawaii has limited space and beautiful natural resources. We will continue to protect them.”

Hawaii’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka praised the announcement, saying they believed the Army evaluated and weighed environmental and security considerations when making its decision.

“We can and must find a balance between preserving Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources, and our need to make sure our brave men and women in the military have the training they need to fulfill their missions,” Akaka said.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said he “looked forward to reading the decision in detail and understanding the Army’s rationale.”

David Henkin, an Earthjustice lawyer who represented environmentalists and Native Hawaiian groups in the court case, said a preliminary review of the Army’s decision provided some welcome news.

He pointed to the part where the Army said it would consider building a live-fire training range alternative to Makua Military Reservation, which is located in a valley Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Henkin’s clients had been concerned that the Stryker brigade would occupy space that could be used for live-fire training instead of Makua Military Reservation.

The Army’s official Record of Decision addressed that concern, Henkin said.
“It’s a very positive development because it indicates that finally there is an openness to at least evaluating alternative locations to Makua,” Henkin said.

The Army considers Makua vital to soldier readiness but Native Hawaiian groups value the remote valley for its temples and other sacred and cultural sites. Environmentalists point to several dozen endangered species that inhabit the valley.

Henkin said he was still reviewing the rest of the document to see whether it provides enough information for the reasons behind Hawaii’s selection.

The brigade will also train at Oahu locations, including Schofield Barracks, Dillingham Military Reservation, Kahuku Training Area, Kawailoa Training Area and Wheeler Army Airfield.



POSTED: 17 FEBRUARY 2008 - 10:00am HST

Army EIS picks Hawaii as Stryker 1st choice

image above: Combat Mission Shock Force featuring7 Stryker models most relevant on the battlefield.
Computer generated simulations of Strykers from game simulation.

[Lanny Sinkin comments: Strengthening the forward base for the war with China.]

by William Cole on 16 February 2008 in The Honolulu Advertiser

The Army moved closer to a permanent basing of the Stryker brigade in Hawai'i yesterday, saying an environmental analysis concludes that Schofield Barracks is the preferred location for the armored vehicle unit.

The completion of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, is a significant milestone in the Army's four-year legal battle with environmentalists and Native Hawaiians over the impact of the 19-ton Stryker vehicles.

The Army was ordered by a federal appeals court in 2006 to look at alternative locations as a follow up to an initial EIS. The Army looked at Hawai'i, Alaska and Colorado.

The Army originally selected Hawai'i in 2001 as a location for one of the fast-strike units, and the Army's EIS now confirms that choice.

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawai'i, said he was pleased the Army recommended Schofield Barracks as the preferred location for the Stryker brigade.
"I am confident that in this supplemental EIS, the Army has carefully considered the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative location," Akaka said in a release. "It is my understanding that the Army's recommendation to permanently base the (Stryker brigade) in Hawai'i supports their efforts to ensure strategic deployment capabilities in the (Pacific) region, provide optimal training opportunities ... and offers the highest quality of life for our soldiers and their families."

But the legal wrangling may not be over yet.

In an unusual move, the Army announced the conclusion of the Environmental Impact Statement a week before it is published and explained in the Federal Register, a requirement under federal law.

That means the rationale for the decision might not be known until Friday.
That left the plaintiffs yesterday seeking the answers that will come next week.
"The Army has some serious explaining to do to the people of Hawai'i as to why it's proceeding the way it is (with Hawai'i as the preferred location)," said David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney representing three plaintiff groups.


Henkin said he'll be examining the EIS carefully when it comes out to see why a separate Army environmental study said new Stryker brigades could be located at Fort Bliss in Texas, the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, or the Yakima Training Center and Fort Lewis, both in Washington state.

The EIS for Hawai'i's Stryker brigade only looked at Schofield Barracks, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Fort Richardson in Alaska, Henkin said.

Henkin said in particular, he questions why the Army did not look at Fort Lewis — a base that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said should be examined as an alternative for the Hawai'i brigade.

"I don't know what we're going to do," Henkin said. "It's going to depend on a lot of things, including what the final EIS looks like."

The EIS was completed after three groups — 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition, Na 'Imi Pono and Kipuka — sued in 2004 to halt the Hawai'i Stryker project.

The lawsuit charged that the Stryker project would damage Native Hawaiian cultural sites and harm endangered species and their habitats.

In October 2006, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Army violated the law by not adequately considering alternative locations outside Hawai'i for the $1.5 billion Stryker brigade.

The court ordered the Army to complete a supplemental EIS.

The outcome will determine whether the 4,000 Stryker brigade soldiers now deployed to Iraq with 328 of the eight-wheeled vehicles will return late this year or early in 2009 to Schofield Barracks, Fort Richardson or Fort Carson.


The Army said it initially considered "the full spectrum of Army installations" elsewhere as potential sites before concluding that the bases in Alaska and Colorado were the most viable as alternatives to Hawai'i.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, said he'd been briefed on the details of the Army's EIS. Its completion is an important step in determining if Schofield will be the final location for the Stryker brigade, he said.

But Abercrombie, who advocates the Army giving up efforts to train in Makua Valley, a place of importance to some Hawaiians, said the Stryker EIS also is part of a long-running controversy.

"We want our military forces in Hawai'i to have the most productive use of their bases and training facilities. The men and women of the 25th Infantry's Stryker Brigade Combat Team now deployed in Iraq certainly deserve a welcome place to come home to," Abercrombie said in a release. "We certainly want the Army to remain valued and respected citizens of Hawai'i who value and respect the people and culture of our state."

Also at stake in the Stryker decision are nearly $700 million in construction projects for the brigade on O'ahu and the Big Island.

Some of those projects were completed, but others were halted with the lawsuit. Officials said if the decision is made to keep the Stryker brigade in Hawai'i, as expected, previous contracts will remain in effect, rather than having to rebid the work.

see also:
Island Breath: Ban recruiting aimed at minors 2/11/08
Island Breath: Military Mining for Kids 1/19/06
Island Breath: DU found at Pohakuloa Range 8/21/07
Island Breath: Navy Expansion Plan for PMRF 8/7/07

Island Breath: Militarism in Hawaii 5/ 17/07