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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 20, 2003

War hits close to home for many in Hawai'i

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Leimomi Stender-Jenkins intentionally stayed away from the television much of yesterday. After President Bush spoke and said the attacks on Iraq had begun, she was glued to the set.

Willie and Mikaela Bremer, visitors on vacation from Salida, Calif., catch up with the news by reading the special War Extra edition of The Advertiser last night on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Her son, Sgt. Lono Stender, 27, a Marine who works in intelligence, was in the northern desert of Kuwait. Her son-in-law, Marine Cpl. Michael Thomason, 22, was also in the country.

So many thoughts whipped through her mind: The safety of her son and son-in-law, how bad the fighting will be, whether terrorists will retaliate on U.S. soil.

"I didn't want to watch CNN all day long," said Stender-Jenkins, a Hawaiian history and American history teacher at McKinley High School, which is on spring break. "You can become obsessed with it."

But yesterday's uncertainty was replaced with images of Tomahawk cruise missiles being fired from U.S. Navy ships, signaling the start but leaving many question marks about the war that has finally come.

"I'm worried, and waiting, and watching, and hoping that it doesn't last that long," she said.

 •  U.S. bombs Iraq, hunts for Saddam
 •  'Target of opportunity' seized
 •  First blow aimed at Saddam for symbolism, psychology
 •  Reaction shows nation still divided on war
 •  U.S. troops, ships take battle positions
 •  'Force recon' ready for risky jobs
 •  Military maps out worst-case scenarios
 •  Turkey moves to let U.S. use airspace
 •  Three layers of protection surround Saddam
 •  Saddam calls U.S. attack 'shameful crime'
 •  Views vary on defining U.S. victory
 •  Iraq plans to ask U.N. to condemn U.S.
 •  South Korea raises military alert level
 •  1,000 U.S. troops sent on hunt for al-Qaida
 •  Chronology to war in Iraq
 •  Hawai'i security level raised
 •  Reality of attack dawns in Hawai'i
 •  Hawai'i's congressmen back troops

At least four Pearl Harbor-based ships and several submarines, nearly 550 Marines, 50 airmen from Hickam Air Force Base, about 80 Schofield Barracks soldiers, a Coast Guard cutter and hundreds of National Guard troops and other reservists from Hawai'i are, or soon will be, in the Persian Gulf region.

Whether troops are deployed to the Gulf region or on duty here in Hawai'i, the war in Iraq quickly reverberated through Hawai'i's military community.

"Every TV was on in the office, and I would arguably say every TV was on in the (Navy Region Hawai'i headquarters) building. Everybody was waiting for what the president had to say," said spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell.

Campbell wasn't sure whether the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer Paul Hamilton, in the Persian Gulf with the Abraham Lincoln battle group, was one of those ships taking part in Tomahawk missile strikes.

But seeing the cruise missiles launched from destroyers "means the Navy is doing business, and it reinforces the fact that we were ready when the president called."

The attack submarine USS Cheyenne, one of seven Pearl Harbor subs deployed to the Western Pacific or Gulf region, reportedly did launch Tomahawks.

Michael Pavkovic, director of the diplomacy and military studies program at Hawai'i Pacific University, doesn't expect the aerial bombardment to be the "five-week campaign that we saw in the first Gulf War."

"I think what we're trying to do is use a lot of our (precision guided munitions) to do what we did early in the first Gulf War — to disrupt command and control," Pavkovic said.

But he predicts that in less than a week "you'll see ground action being commenced. This is the beginning of a much shorter aerial campaign."

Before President Bush announced that the attack had begun, military bases here were at Force Protection level "Bravo" or higher — a level unchanged from previous weeks. Bravo is the third highest security level after "Normal" and "Alpha," and applies when "an increased and more predictable threat of terrorist activity exists."

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon ordered military bases nationwide to the highest alert level, "Delta," a level of caution not seen seen in the Pacific since the 1991 Gulf War.

Pearl Harbor military and civilian personnel are to report to work as scheduled, officials said.

Radford High School track and field coach Al Bader wanted to hold practice at 3 p.m. yesterday — the same time as President Bush's deadline for Saddam Hussein to relinquish power. But practice was canceled because some of Bader's 67 athletes returned home to Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor because of tightened security measures on military bases.

At Radford, 80 percent of the student body comes from military families.

Junior basketball player Joanne Czumalowski has stayed in close contact with her father, John Czumalowski, since he left in late February. He is a postal carrier for the Air Force. "He's doing all right," Joanne said. "I talked to him the other day. He said he's in Qatar, and he's flying back and forth to Kuwait. He just asked how I was doing, how basketball's doing, school and how's everything at home."

Chelsi Diaz's father was supposed to return twice this year, but couldn't because of the political tension in Iraq. Roberto Diaz is aboard the destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, which is in the Persian Gulf. He also served in Desert Storm in 1991. Chelsi, a freshman, was a toddler at the time.

"As far as being scared about it, I haven't been scared about my dad being in the military until now," she said. "You don't know what's going to happen out there. We just have to wait and pray."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.

Advertiser staff writers Dan Nakaso and Kyle Sakamoto contributed to this report.