Drawing Battle Lines: Hawaiians on both sides testify at Stryker hearings

Drawing Battle Lines

Hawaiians on both sides testify at Stryker hearings

By lisa Asato

Publications Editor

The Army wrapped up five public hearings in Hawai‘i last month on its proposal to permanently base the Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Hawai‘i, Alaska or Colorado.

The hearings were the result of a ruling last year by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that halted Stryker-related work until the Army made an environmental analysis of other possible sites besides Hawai‘i, which was the only site previously considered. Training resumed on a limited basis last December.

During the course of the hearings, testimony was offered by Native Hawaiians on both sides of the issue. Activist and former gubernatorial candidate William Ailä was among those who testified that the draft Environmental Impact Statement still isn’t sufficient. “I think the process is being manipulated to arrive at the decision to stage the Stryker

here,” he said.

Ailä said the Army Chief of Staff and other decision-makers are not being presented with

all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Among the shortcomings, he said, is that a site-specific EIS was done for Hawai‘i but not for the two other sites under consideration at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and Fort Carlson,

Colorado, nor was one done for an alternate interim combat team, which may replace the

Stryker brigade.

Ailä also said a new quality-of-life criterion, added after the original EIS in 2004, “predisposes Hawai‘i as the selection site” because 99.5 percent of service members would choose Hawai‘i over Alaska or Colorado. “That automatically gives (Hawai‘i) a higher rating,” he said. Critics of the plan also oppose the brigade’s impact on endangered species and cultural sites, Ailä said.

Meanwhile, William Prescott, a Native Hawaiian retired Army sergeant and Vietnam veteran, said the EIS is “more than adequate to satisfy the requirements that’s been placed on (the Army).” He also challenged the use of words like “sacred” in the EIS, saying it

should be deleted or referred to as “formerly considered sacred” if it refers to Hawaiian gods and religion, because King Kamehameha II abolished the Hawaiian religion in 1819.

Prescott said soldiers need to train, and people should remember that they are here because our congressional delegation brings them here. “If (people) have any complaints, they should take it up with the people they elected, not on the men who are going to be committed to combat to defend our freedom,” he said.

The planned Stryker brigade would comprise about 4,000 soldiers and 1,000 vehicles, including about 320 Stryker combat vehicles, which would be based at Schofield Barracks and trained at Mäkua, Kahuku, Kawailoa and Dillingham Transportation Area on O‘ahu and at Pöhakuloa on Hawai‘i Island.

Last year, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs filed a complaint alleging the Army had failed to comply with federal law in performing construction work in the Schofield region, as

well as failure to comply with its own Programmatic Agreement of 2004, aimed at protecting cultural resources. OHA was a party to that agreement, and cultural monitors reported damage to Hale‘au‘au heiau by bulldozers, construction of a road over burial grounds and other violations. OHA is asking the courts to prohibit Stryker-related construction or training activity in that area until compliance is achieved.

The draft EIS may be viewed online at www.sbct-seis.org.

The public comment period ended Oct. 30. A video of the Stryker brigade EIS meeting

at Nänäkuli will air on ‘Ölelo channel 53 at 8 a.m. Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m. Nov. 10, 8 a.m. Nov. 16 and 12:30 p.m. Nov. 17.

Source: www.oha.org/pdf/kwo07/KWO0711.pdf

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