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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:30 p.m., Monday, December 18, 2006

Army argues for more Stryker training

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

A federal court judge today took under advisement the Army's argument that some Stryker brigade training and five projects should go forward in preparation for an Iraq deployment.

James Gette, a Justice Department attorney representing the Army, said there is no record in the evidence to show there will be "tangible, irreparable injury" to the environment if the projects go forward.

Those projects include:

  • completion of Qualification Training Range 1;

  • completion of a motor park and maintenance area;

  • completion of an urban assault course;

  • completion of a tactical vehicle wash facility;

  • completion of a multiple deployment facility;

  • and modifications to an existing training range at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

    The San Francisco-based appeals court ruled 2-1 in October that the Army violated national environmental law by not considering alternative locations outside Hawai'i for the unit, and ordered the Army to conduct such a study.

    U.S.District Judge David Ezra must decide what scope a subsequent injunction must cover.

    David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney representing three Hawaiian groups in a lawsuit against the Army, said there is a "baseline" of past military use that some Stryker projects would exceed, and therefore shouldn't proceed.

    However, Henkin said based on past use, some Stryker training can be resumed, and use of Dillingham Airfield is acceptable along with training at Kahuku Training Area and Schofield Barracks' East Range with some erosion control measures. The plaintiffs also agree to other training, but not all the Army is requesting.

    The Army said the alternative to not training in Hawai'i is to move the 3,900-soldier Stryker brigade and its 328 armored vehicles to the Mainland for training, but that would negatively affect families and morale, Gette said. He added that "to move this unit would be to break this unit."

    Ezra said "there is no question in my mind that there are some activities that the Army won't be permitted to engage in," but there are "no absolutes" in the case. He said he would render a decision in the case as quickly as he possibly can.

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