Makua still crucial, Army says
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Affairs Writer
The Army is still laying claim to Makua Valley as a crucial site to train soldiers for combat, despite its longer-term plans for a radically different approach to fighting tied to armored vehicles that will bridge the gap between traditional light infantry and heavy tank forces.
It will be several years before the Army in Hawai'i receives 300 eight-wheeled troop carriers as part of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's vision to transform the service into a lighter, faster fighting force. The Pentagon announced July 12 that the carriers were targeted for the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) one of two infantry brigades stationed at Schofield Barracks.
"Our urgent need to train these forces at Makua now ... will not change as a result of this announcement," U.S. Army Pacific officials said yesterday in a statement.
A federal judge on Monday granted a preliminary injunction barring training at Makua until at least Oct. 29, when a hearing is scheduled on a lawsuit seeking greater environmental review of the Army's activities in the valley. The 25th Infantry Division (Light) announced May 15 that it planned to resume live-fire exercises in the valley this month or next, but the injunction stands in the way of those plans.
The news last week that Hawai'i and Alaska were selected for the prototype rapid-strike brigade raised speculation as to whether Makua Military Reservation still would be needed for live-fire training.
Until training was suspended in 1998, soldiers charged through the valley on foot, attacking entrenched positions as artillery shells exploded nearby.
In the "transformation fact sheet" released yesterday the Army said training readiness and the new "Interim Brigade Combat Team" are not linked at least for the near term. The "interim" designation refers to forces that will be in place until 2008 or 2010, when they will be replaced by weapons still being developed.
Transformation will take several years to implement, and is dependent on environmental studies and availability of equipment.
"The IBCT will require new fighting behaviors of leaders and units," the Army said. "This, in turn, will require adjustments to the current set of training ranges, facilities and areas. Making these adjustments will require a military-community partnership in order to strike the right balance between our obligation to maintain training and readiness as well as to preserve our environment and culture. In the meantime, the 25th Division must remain trained and ready."