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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Stryker brigade is approved for Hawai'i

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has approved a rapid-response Stryker Brigade Combat Team for Hawai'i that will include increased firepower from the ground and air.

Stryker units — the first one is already in Iraq — are based around 20-ton, eight-wheeled personnel carriers.

Advertiser library photo • June 25, 2003

The Stryker Brigade is expected to be operational in 2007, equipped with new lightweight 155 mm howitzers and new Comanche helicopters, scheduled to be in service in 2009. The Stryker will be the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and be based at Schofield Barracks.

Army officials in Hawai'i could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, and the Inside the Army newsletter said Rumsfeld had made the decision last week.

Earlier this year, Rumsfeld delayed his final decision on Stryker pending an assessment of whether the brigade should be modified to be equipped with more firepower.

The newsletter, quoting unnamed sources, said the Pentagon had given the go-ahead for a fifth Stryker Brigade in Hawai'i and a sixth in Pennsylvania.

Abercrombie said the Stryker Brigade would be a boon for the local economy.

"The Hawai'i congressional delegation has already secured more than $100 million for infrastructure to support the brigade, and that's only the beginning," Abercrombie said.

The Stryker is key to the Pentagon's goal of remaking the Army into a more versatile force that can move quickly to distant battlefields. The units, built around the 20-ton, eight-wheeled Stryker vehicle, are far quicker than a traditional armored unit centered around the tank.

The first Stryker is in Iraq, accompanied by an aviation battalion task force comprised of OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, according to Inside the Army.

The $1.5 billion project approved by Rumsfeld includes several "enhancements," such as the Comanches and 155 mm guns, Abercrombie said.

"They intend to enhance them with a more sophisticated aviation element and artillery element," Abercrombie said.

"We have an obligation to see to it that the people who are in the United States military have the best possible training and equipment and circumstances in which to live and conduct themselves," Abercrombie said.

The Army is completing an environmental impact statement for the Stryker plan, which would require extensive construction on O'ahu and the Big

Island. Nearly 30 projects are expected to cost $693 million and include the purchase of 1,400 acres on O'ahu and 23,000 acres on the Big Island.

The Army also will need to make improvements to training facilities at Schofield Barracks, and Hickam Air Force Base would need upgrades to accommodate the C-17 aircraft that will be used to transport the brigade, Abercrombie said.

The Army held a series of public hearings on the draft EIS that drew many people opposed to the project, who said it would destroy cultural sites and use valuable land. Peace activists objected to the military presence in Hawai'i.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8025.