STAR-BULLETIN / FEBRUARY 2006
At Schofield Barracks earlier this year, a Stryker crew in a medical evacuation vehicle conducted media tours.
Appeals court halts Stryker activity here
The Army lost a major court battle to local environmentalists and anti-war activists yesterday and might not be ready to deploy a Stryker brigade to Iraq late next year.
In The Works
Pending Stryker-related construction projects:
» 1,000-acre live-fire training complex at Schofield Barracks that would support up to 200 soldiers
» $49 million, 193,923-square-foot motor pool
» $8.7 million rifle and pistol range
» $3.5 million vehicle wash facility
» $5.8 million urban assault course and training facility where soldiers learn urban-assault techniques and proper ways to clear buildings, firing live ammunition.
» $24 million deployment facility at Wheeler Army Airfield, where soldiers, trucks and aircraft could conduct deployment training.
A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco, in a 2-1 decision, issued a temporary injunction halting construction, training and any other activities dealing with the $1.5 billion Stryker Combat Brigade planned for the 25th Infantry Division.
David Henkin, Earthjustice attorney, said the case now reverts to U.S. District Judge Dave Ezra to determine if any Stryker-related construction or training can occur while the Army works on a new environmental impact statement.
Henkin said he will not only ask Ezra to prevent the Army from causing "irreparable harm" to environment, but he also does not want the Stryker conversion to be so far along that it cannot be stopped.
The Army has said the 2nd Brigade Combat Team has completed 60 percent of its training and received 70 percent of its equipment. The 2nd Brigade is slated to grow into a 3,500-member combat unit built around 328 of the 19-ton, eight-wheeled vehicles.
Before the injunction was put into effect, the Army had said the 2nd Brigade would be ready to deploy to Iraq by November 2007 as the fifth of seven planned Stryker units.
In court papers, Ron Borne, director of transformation for the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, listed Stryker-related construction projects that must be completed for the Army to meet its deadline.
The Army issued a terse statement yesterday: "We are in receipt of the court order, and we are complying."
A federal appeals panel ruled Oct. 5 that the Army had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider other locations outside of Schofield Barracks for its fifth Stryker brigade.
The court ordered the Army to amend its environmental impact statement -- a process that could take as long as a year. Despite the court's ruling, the Army maintained that it could proceed with 28 Stryker-related construction projects, totaling $693 million, during the review period.
Earthjustice, representing Ilioulaokalani Coalition, Na Imi Pono and Kipuka, sought the temporary injunction last week because the Army planned to start construction Wednesday on a nearly 1,000-acre live-fire training complex at Schofield Barracks.
Henkin said the Army now concedes that this training range is no longer "a critical construction project either for Stryker conversion or to train other units."
Kyle Kajihiro, an anti-war activist, said yesterday that cultural monitors discovered this month what they believe are more than 200 cultural sites, including what could be ancient burial areas.
"It really raises the level of concern since some of them could be sacred burial sites," Kajihiro said.
In court filings last week, Henkin said the Army acknowledged that construction of the $6 million urban-assault course could result in destruction or damage of Hawaiian cultural sites.
Cultural monitors also have had no opportunity to inspect areas where the motor pool and the vehicle wash facility will be built, the environmental group said.
"We're pleased the court recognized the Army's plans to plow ahead with Stryker conversion in Hawaii -- before even looking at other places where it could achieve its goals without destroying cultural sites -- violated both the law and common sense," Henkin said.
In opposing Earthjustice's request for a temporary injunction, U.S. Justice Department attorneys said the appeals court "must balance national security implications of enjoining those activities against the harm alleged by the plaintiffs."
But Earthjustice argued that the Army's "rhetoric rings hollow" that any delay in the development of a Stryker Combat Brigade would jeopardize national security. In an 11-page rebuttal, Henkin said the Army used the same arguments last year.
At that time, Henkin pointed out the Army said any postponement of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's conversion beyond May 2007 would "significantly degrade the Army's ability to provide effective and ready forces to meet strategic commitments, including ongoing operations in Iraq, and reduce the Army's strategic posture to deter conflict and respond to crisis situations in the Pacific area of responsibility, including the Republic of Korea."
Initially, May 2007 was the date 25th Infantry Division officials had said the Stryker Brigade Combat Team would be ready for wartime duty.
"The Army fails to explain why this half-year delay, which allegedly posed such dire ramifications, did not, when it came to pass, have any adverse consequences," Henkin said.