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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Army plans improvements to sites on Big Island, O'ahu

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

HILO, Hawai'i — As part of its plan to modernize its forces, the Army plans to spend about $234 million on the Big Island during the next decade to upgrade and expand its training areas.

"What we're trying to do is build a force that will fight a war anywhere in the world, and we need new training facilities to do it,'' said Maj. Gen. James Dubik, commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army Hawai'i.

Dubik, speaking yesterday at a news conference at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, said the Army already is seeking permission to begin the environmental planning process.

Two public meetings have been scheduled on the Big Island April 16 and 17.

The improvements are part of a nearly $700 million plan to revamp Army training sites on O'ahu and the Big Island.

It's all part of the Army's "transformation'' initiative designed to revolutionize the way soldiers train and fight.

On O'ahu, 32 projects are planned, including an upgrade to Wheeler Army Airfield and an expansion of Schofield Barracks and Kahuku training facilities.

Schofield Barracks also would see 480 more soldiers and 435 additional vehicles — 300 of which would be lighter, faster armored troop carriers.

On the Big Island, the plan is to upgrade the war-game potential of the Pohakuloa Training Area, which encompasses 108,890 acres in the middle of the island on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

The Army proposes to improve Bradshaw Army Airfield, upgrade a tank trail from Kawaihae Harbor to Pohakuloa, expand the live-fire capabilities of two firing ranges and purchase 23,000 acres from Parker Ranch northwest of Pohakuloa.

Dubik said that although military activity will increase on the Big Island, the tank trail will allow a reduction of traffic on civilian roadways and improve safety associated with the training.

But it's unclear if groups of Native Hawaiians, who are opposing telescope development at the summit of Mauna Kea, also will rally against this project.

The general earlier held a briefing for Big Island Mayor Harry Kim and his staff.

Kim said yesterday he could support the new facilities.

He said that even though he despises war, he backs the concept of the Army using new technology to improve its effectiveness.

"I'm a firm believer that we have a strong obligation to support the United States,'' he said.