Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, February 11, 1999

Views of departing
Pacific commander

THE distinguished line of admirals commanding all U.S. forces in the Pacific started with Chester Nimitz. He was dispatched to Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 after the Japanese attack and told to stay in the Pacific until the war against Japan was won.

Adm. Joseph W. Prueher is No. 17. After three years at the Pacific Command headquarters, now on Halawa Heights, he will turn over his command on Feb. 20 to Adm. Dennis C. Blair. The command area embraces 43 nations. To do his job Prueher logged some 800,000 miles of air travel.

I asked him to name the topics in a retirement interview and he chose these:

PROMOTING ASIA-PACIFIC PEACE AND SECURITY -- We are the No. 1 regional power. Basic military security can create a climate for economic and political prosperity. We have done a good job overall.

Preventive defense is what we do day in and day out. This includes training and crisis response capability. A forward presence in the Pacific is essential. He quoted Woody Allen's "90 percent is showing up."

He has concentrated heavily on partnership building. We try to encourage matching national interests with global interests. The recent economic crises in Asia carry the threat of a return to nationalism.

(My mind flashed back to a briefing by Brent Scowcroft, President Bush's national security adviser. Scowcroft said just about all Asia-Pacific nations welcome a U.S. presence as essential for regional stability, whether they will say it publicly or not. The U.S. Pacific Command is our key to that stability.)

ON HAWAII AND HIS COMMAND -- This is the only unified U.S. command in the world where all four component commands -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine -- have their headquarters located so close together as on Oahu. He has high praise for all four present commanders and their ability to collaborate effectively.

Every time he comes back from Asia he re-appreciates our clean air, pure water and general freedom from pollution. Even Hawaii's street people, he said, live high by some Asian standards. Hawaii "restoreth my soul."

He and his wife, Suzanne, immensely enjoy their local contacts. She has had time to work for Hawaii Foodbank and the Hawaii Theatre, among other community activities.

The sense of patriotism here is stronger than he has found anywhere else. It seems to grow from the magnificent World War II contributions of Hawaii's Americans of Japanese ancestry and has continued. U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is an immense resource for the community and the military services.

HIS MAIN HAWAII CONCERN -- Adequate training areas for service personnel are crucial to their continued presence here. This is well understood at the highest local government and community levels but needs wider general public understanding. He cancelled a proposed landing exercise across Makua Beach but felt both sides overstated their needs and concerns.

HIS FUTURE -- No comment on published reports he might be asked to be U.S. ambassador to China. He and his wife will return briefly to their Washington, D.C., home after he turns over his command. Then he will join a China mission out of uniform. Beyond that his plans are not firm. He will always want to serve his country as best he can.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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