CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A convoy of Stryker military combat vehicles convoy cruises down H2 as it heads home to Schofield. An Army supply vessel delivered the vehicles to Waipio Point this morning. The Strykers have been training on the Big Island.
Schofield considered as base for Stryker team
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After being forced to evaluate 29 Army posts as possible sites for the fifth Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the Army has narrowed the field to Schofield Barracks, Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Richardson in Alaska.
But an attorney for Earthjustice still believes the Army's latest review is flawed. The environmental law firm won a federal appeals court ruling after arguing that the Army's initial environmental impact statement did not seriously consider alternatives besides Hawaii.
The public now has until Sept. 4 to comment on the latest environmental study.
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The Army has identified Colorado and Alaska as two possible alternatives to Schofield Barracks as the home of its fifth Stryker Combat Brigade.
To Comment on the Stryker
Written comments and suggestions concerning the Stryker draft environmental impact statement should be sent to:
Public Affairs Office
U.S. Army Environmental Command
5179 Hoadley Road
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5401
E-mail comments should be sent to PublicComment@aec.apgea.army.mil.
The draft statement is available at www.aec.army.mil/usaec or www.sbct-seis.org.
But the draft environmental impact statement rejected many of the options proposed by opponents, saying they would be too expensive since new facilities would have to be built to accommodate the increased number of soldiers, their families and the new Stryker combat vehicles.
The executive summary accompanying the supplemental environmental statement said it "will provide Army senior leadership with a hard look at environmental impacts associated with selecting a home station" for the Stryker brigade.
However, Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake said he was "very disappointed" with the way the Army did the latest study because it used restrictive criteria to eliminate most of the options his organization raised.
The environmental law firm convinced the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Army's 2004 environmental impact statement did not adequately address or analyze alternatives other than Hawaii.
"We ended up in the same place, and it defeats the purpose of an environmental impact statement, which is to study all of the alternatives," Moriwake added. "The Army can do better, and the people of Hawaii deserve better."
The public has until Sept. 4 to comment on the latest draft. Public hearings will be held here Aug. 13-31, the Army said.
The two other sites studied by the Army are Fort Richardson in Alaska and Fort Carson in Colorado. Those two posts and Schofield have the minimum 105,000 acres the Army says a Stryker unit needs for its soldiers, vehicles, weapons, reconnaissance and communications systems.
In evaluating the installations' ability to support the needs and requirements of the Stryker brigade while taking in environmental, social and public considerations, the Army ranked Fort Carson last. The Army said it is not located near airfields where C-17 cargo jets are stationed, and housing for soldiers and their families is limited there.
Schofield Barracks outranked Fort Richardson in the areas of garrison and office space and housing for single and married soldiers.
The Army ruled out Fort Lewis in Washington state since it already houses two Stryker combat brigades, with a third already planned for the Northwest post.
Also rejected were suggestions to station the Stryker unit at Schofield Barracks but conduct its training at mainland installations. The Army said movement of soldiers and Stryker equipment to places like Fort Polk in Louisiana or Fort Irwin in Southern California would be "both time-consuming and expensive."
Besides being disruptive to the lives of the soldiers and their families, the report said the Louisiana and California installations are "heavily used by other Army units, making it difficult to schedule" the training requirements of the Hawaii-based Stryker unit.
Other suggestions rejected by the Army include:
» Swapping the 25th Division's planned Stryker unit with a mainland brigade made up of tanks and heavy armored vehicles, because it would be too expensive.
» Placing the Stryker unit in the Hawaii Army National Guard or Pacific Army Reserve, because it would be too expensive and take too long to build the necessary support facilities.
» Permanently stationing the Stryker unit overseas, because it is not in accordance with current Pentagon policy, which is to bring Army soldiers back to the United States.
The Schofield Barracks brigade with its 4,000 soldiers and 1,000 vehicles, including 320 of the 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored Stryker vehicles, will deploy to Iraq in November. It will need a home station to return to in late 2008.