The September 11th attack
Army may make emergency request for Makua training
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Army has told a federal judge it may make an emergency request for a return to training at the Makua Military Reservation in the wake of the terrorist attacks and the possibility of war.
Officials said U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway was informed of the possibility during a scheduling conference call last Wednesday with Army lead counsel Stephen Bartell and the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, which represents community group Malama Makua in a lawsuit against the Army.
Earthjustice attorney David Henkin yesterday said the 25th Infantry Division (Light) suggested it may take such legal action, but did not specify a basis for it.
"He (Bartell) wanted to alert the court and us to the possibility the Army would bring an emergency motion to do some training," Henkin said. "He suggested they might do it in a week or two, but I haven't seen any papers."
The Army yesterday said it was "exploring all possible legal bases."
"The president made it clear that the U.S. military should be ready and the Army has said for three years, ever since halting training in September 1998, that we need Makua to ensure our training proficiency," said 25th Infantry and U.S. Army Hawai'i spokeswoman Maj. Nancy Makowski.
Makowski said training in Makua is essential "now more than ever."
In July, Mollway granted a preliminary injunction barring a return to live-fire training at Makua pending a decision on the lawsuit that seeks a comprehensive "environmental impact statement" on the effects of more than 50 years of military bombardment in the 4,190-acre Wai'anae Coast valley. The Army uses 456 acres for actual training.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Meeker, who also represents the Army in the case, yesterday declined to comment about the possible emergency motion.
The preliminary injunction was to be in effect until Oct. 29, when Mollway was to hear arguments expected from both sides seeking summary judgment in the case. The requests have yet to be filed.
However, with Malama Makua and the Army now indicating they plan to call witnesses, that date was pushed to Nov. 13.
A Jan. 11 hearing date also was set for a possible permanent injunction. Henkin said if Mollway rules that an environmental impact statement is necessary, the Army could seek to train in the valley while conducting the study something Malama Makua opposes.
Officials yesterday said no definite decision has been made to pursue emergency action and a return to training before the case can be decided based on the current schedule. The type of training the Army would seek also was unclear.
Malama Makua board member Sparky Rodrigues said he was unaware of the Army's comments last week.
"It's kind of premature to speculate without getting further information," he said. "This is the first I've heard about it. I know every night they are training at Schofield (Barracks), so there's a lot of activity going on, but I'm not sure what they are talking about."
Henkin was not sure what, if any, national security laws the Army might invoke to argue for an early return to Makua.
"We're taking a wait-and-see approach," he said. "We'll see what they ask for and why, and then we'll determine what we think is an appropriate response."
With patriotism at a high following the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks, public sentiment over a possible return to training in Makua may be at its peak.
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Kalaeloa, Makaha), believes a silent majority along the Wai'anae Coast always has supported the Army's use of Makua.
What's changed is that "the people who are part of the silent majority are now speaking up," she said. Hanabusa said she is hearing more pro-military sentiment.
"You hear now from these people you don't expect to hear from the elderly, the grandma and grandpa types. It's surprised me it's Makua on their minds," Hanabusa said.
Hanabusa, who continues to support the Army's use of Makua for training, said, "It's the readiness issue and safety issue and protection protect our shores" that residents locally and across the state are thinking about now.
"They speak about what happened (Sept. 11) and it's a terrible thing, but Makua is something that's there, too," Hanabusa said. "(Military training) is almost like something we can do. It's about our part something we can do here."
Reach William Cole at email@example.com or 525-5459.