If Strykers leave, Hawaii gets new unit
|StoryChat: Comment on this story|
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
If the Army is forced to move the Stryker brigade out of Hawai'i in late 2008 or early 2009 because of an environmental lawsuit, another brigade — either airborne or infantry — would replace it here, a newly-released study states.
The 595-page draft environmental impact statement put together by the Army considers returning the Stryker unit to Hawai'i after an upcoming deployment to Iraq, or permanently basing it at Fort Richardson in Alaska or Fort Carson in Colorado.
If Colorado or Alaska is chosen, Hawai'i would get a slightly smaller unit, the Army said. The Stryker brigade has about 4,000 soldiers, 328 of the eight-wheeled armored vehicles and about 600 other vehicles.
The Army is weighing its options after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in October that the Army had not fully complied with federal environmental law and did not adequately analyze alternative locations outside Hawai'i for the Stryker brigade.
Public comment is being sought on the environmental draft, which does not specify a preferred location. Instead, the draft states that the proposed action is to home-station permanently the Stryker brigade "in a location that meets national security and defense policy guidance," provides for training and a "high quality of life" for soldiers and their families, and facilitates the rapid deployment of the unit worldwide.
The examination, when finished, will give Army senior leadership a "hard look" at environmental impacts associated with selecting a home station, the draft said.
Three Hawaiian groups — 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition, Na 'Imi Pono and Kipuka — filed a lawsuit in 2004 charging that the $1.5 billion Stryker project would damage Native Hawaiian cultural sites and harm endangered species and their habitats.
William Aila Jr., a Wai'anae resident and plaintiff with Na 'Imi Pono, said from an environmental standpoint, the infantry brigade combat teams from the other states would have less of a footprint.
If the Army does decide to move the Hawai'i Strykers, the 4/25th Airborne from Alaska, or the 4/4 brigade combat team from Colorado, would replace it here. Both units have 3,438 soldiers.
"These infantry brigade combat teams now have different components and different training requirements, so we'd have to see what those requirements are before I could say that we'd prefer that over the Stryker," Aila said.
The draft states that there are significant impacts for soil erosion in Hawai'i and Colorado, and significant but mitigatable to less than significant impacts for Alaska. Cultural resources impacts are significant in all three locations.
The Stryker brigade and its 28 construction projects have been dogged by legal challenges since the Army released what it thought would be its final environmental impact statement on the unit in 2004.
The brigade transformed the 2nd brigade at Schofield Barracks, which was a light infantry unit, to Stryker use.
Stryker soldiers are scheduled to deploy to Iraq in November. The unit is expected to leave soon for California for several weeks of gunnery exercise in the desert and will be going through final training at the National Training Center Sept. 10 to 28.
Convoys to Pearl Harbor for shipment to California will begin on Monday and take place over coming weeks. The Strykers will be shipped to Kuwait from the West Coast.
At the end of the deployment, they will be shipped to the base the Army selects, either in Hawai'i, Colorado or Alaska.
Written comments on the draft report may be sent to Public Affairs Office, U. S. Army Environmental Command, Building E4460, 5179 Hoadley Road, Attention: IMAE-PA, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5401. E-mail comments can be sent to PublicComments@aec.apgee.army.mil.
The draft statement is available at http://aec.army.mil/usaec.
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.