Striking A Blow For Army Strykers

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - September 21, 2005
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I’m puzzled by the gripes of those opposed for environmental or ethnic-religion reasons to the new Stryker Brigade of the 25th Light Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks.

If you don’t keep up with the weapons of war, the Stryker is a fast-moving combat vehicle designed to quickly get ground troops from place to place with armored protection, but just barely light enough to be transported by the C-17 Air Force cargo jets.

The 25th Division is penciled in to return for another year’s combat duty in Iraq, but the Stryker Brigade will remain here to train up.

(The deployment will be another economic hit for Wahiawa.)

Some Hawaiian groups claim the Stryker Brigade will harm the environment and that “Hawaiians have a spiritual relationship with the land that gives them special rights to protect it and to use it for cultural and religious purposes.”

There’s no question that some of the opponents want to eject the U.S. military from Hawaii and see its presence here as an impediment to their goal of one day getting full Native Hawaiian sovereignty and an independent entity.

One of the very prominent signs at a Kamehameha Schools rally at the state Capital building said: “We don’t need no American government. Don’t like to see too much foreign power here ‘cause Western influence been killing us for years.”

The group Earthjustice (an affiliate of the Sierra Club) claims the Army failed to consider locations other than Hawaii in its final environmental impact statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

I always wonder how many mainstream Sierra Club contributors agree with the filings of Earthjustice - but that’s for another day.

The odd thing about the environmental complaint is that until 1985 the 25th Division was a “heavy” infantry unit full-up with tanks and armored personnel carriers whose weight and treads chewed up the land much more than a Stryker Brigade will ever do with its rubber, run-flat wheels.

Lt. Gen. James Campbell, former commander of U.S. Army Pacific, is on record saying that the Army will spend $40 million for future preservation efforts and plans to work with preservation groups to minimize land damage.

That doesn’t satisfy attorney David Henkin of Earthjustice, who has claimed that “transforming the brigade will destroy native Hawaiian cultural sites, prevent the exercise of traditional practices and irreparably harm Hawaii’s fragile and unique native ecosystems, as well as the endangered plants and animals that depend on them.”

Schofield Barracks’ Stryker brigade will be built around 310 of the 19-ton, eight-wheeled vehicles. They bridge the gap between the Army’s tanks and infantry.

The Strykers - no question about it - represent a major money boon for Hawaii, and Sen. Daniel Inouye and former Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki were the main instruments in basing them here. There will be 28 Stryker-related construction projects valued at $700 million.

But more damaging than artillery fire, tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopter rocket fire?

I don’t think so.

The plan does call for the acquisition of 1,400 acres on Oahu and 23,000 acres on the Big Island, and networks of private trails for the vehicles.

Hawaiian activist Vicky Holt Takamine has said in opposition that “with every move to destroy cultural sites, to destroy endangered species, native Hawaiian resources that are vital to our cultural practices, we find it extremely difficult to pass on these traditions to the next generation.”

It’s a stretch to me to allege that the Army can’t ameliorate damage to whatever “cultural sites” she’s referring to.

If Takamine or others want the U.S. military out of Hawaii, they should say so up front and quit beating around the “cultural sites” bush.

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