In the Military
Kaneohe Marines heading to California
Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines will leave the islands this week for Southern California to prepare for deployment to Iraq this summer. Members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines are commanded by Lt. Col. Andy Milburn who has led the unit since last year. He served as a military training team adviser to Iraqi Army units in Fallujah during the fall 2004 battle and in Mosul.
The Kaneohe battalion returned home last fall after a seven-month deployment to the Anbar province.
The House Armed Service Committee approved last week a 3.9 percent pay raise for all military personnel next year. If passed by the full House, the pay raise would be the highest for troops since 2004 and the 10th consecutive year military pay has outpaced the employment cost index. The Pentagon had requested a 3.4 percent increase, equal to the index's inflation estimate, but earlier the Senate increased it to 3.9 percent, indicating that both chambers will likely adopt the higher raise when they negotiate compromise legislation later this year.
The pay raise is part of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act which includes a provision by Rep. Neil Abercrombie requiring the U.S. Navy to waive for two years the $207,000 paid in annual rent by the USS Missouri Memorial Association to keep the battleship moored at Pearl Harbor's Ford Island.
The memorial pays $17,300 per month in rent to use Pier Foxtrot-5 at Pearl Harbor, which totals nearly $2 million since the original lease was signed in June 1998. But the battleship will be placed in dry dock for two to three months while its hull is being overhauled. The repairs include rust control and painting on the superstructure above the main deck, replacing nearly 53,000 square feet of teak deck planking, and restoration of the underwater portion of the hull.
Officials previously estimated that lower-hull repainting could run as much as $8 million, superstructure rust control and painting could cost $1 million, and the decking could be $5 million to $15 million.
Abercrombie also said the authorization bill also sets aside $67.45 million in defense funding in Hawaii, including:
» $8.5 million for further research, development and installation of marine mammal detection systems on Navy aircraft. These systems would assist in the survey of naval training areas before and during exercises at sea and help ships avoid harming dolphins and whales with sonar equipment.
» $2.4 million in continued funding for the Marine Mammal Research program at the University of Hawaii into the effects of noise in the ocean -- generated by oil exploration, Navy sonar, and other sources -- on dolphins and whales.
» $5 million for sonar mapping, water-quality testing and analysis in the areas where the U.S. military dumped tons of chemical munitions into the ocean at the end of World War II.
» $10.35 million for major safety improvements to Saddle Road between Hilo and Kona on the Big Island;
» Eight different projects totaling $35.2 million for defense research and the development of optical communication, new sensor technologies and advanced systems to detect explosives and biological contamination.
"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako
, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by phone at 294-4075 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org