ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Moanikeala Akaka forcefully expressed an opinion to Army public affairs officer Howard Sugai, back to camera, before last night's hearing on stationing a Stryker brigade in Hawaii.
Opponents dominate forum
HILO » About 60 Big Island residents attended a public hearing last night on whether to base a brigade of Stryker combat vehicles in Hawaii.
Most didn't want the brigade in the state, and some added that the Army's nearly 109,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island should be closed.
Four more Stryker meetings are planned. All are 5:30 to 9:45 p.m.
» Tonight: Waimea (Big Island) Community Center
» Monday: Nanakuli High cafeteria
» Tuesday: Wahiawa District Park
» Oct. 3: Kawananakoa Intermediate cafeteria
"We told the military four years ago, no Stryker," peace activist Jim Albertini said.
He was referring to the fact that the Army already did an environmental impact statement on the effects of basing Strykers in Hawaii, but a court decision required a supplemental impact statement to consider basing the brigade elsewhere.
The two alternative sites for the unit, which would have 320 of the multipurpose armored personnel carriers, are Fort Carson, Colo., or Fort Richardson, Alaska. Another option is not deploying the brigade anywhere.
Army public affairs officer Bob DiMichele said almost all of the public comment before the meeting has come from Hawaii. Alaska and Colorado residents have mostly been silent.
If based in Hawaii, the brigade would be stationed at Schofield Barracks.
Hank Fergerstrom, identifying himself as representing the Temple of Lono, told about 15 uniformed and civilian Army representatives that the Hawaiian culture discouraged people from going into the uplands -- where Pohakuloa is located -- because that was a spiritual realm.
"When I was a child, you didn't want to go up into the kuahiwi (mountains). It has to do with respect," he said.
The hearing was structured so that the public was required to comment on the draft environmental document chapter by chapter, coming back several times to make several comments.
That brought criticism from Albertini.
"Today we are being treated like children: Open your books to Chapter One," he said.
John Ota was among several complaining that "depleted uranium," a nonexplosive form of the metal, had been used at Pohakuloa. He correctly noted that "a number of years" have passed since the usage, more precisely about 30, but concluded, "The government proved to be untrustworthy."
The meeting was generally peaceful but a tense moment took place when moderator Annelle Amaral tried to tell speaker Lindafaye Kroll that she had only one minute left to speak. Kroll momentarily refused to shorten her testimony and the audience united behind her, some calling out, "Censorship!"
Despite the anti-Stryker audience, Lt. Col. John Williams said public comments are useful, showing the Army, for instance, that it has to build "wash racks" to clean Strykers of invasive species before shipping the vehicles interisland.