U.S. chief says
The army's chief of staff, aBy Gregg K. Kakesako
Kauai native, addresses a crowd
of nearly 1,500 in Waikiki
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric "Ric" Shinseki says the United States expects the Indonesian military to protect civilians in East Timor.
Shinseki, who arrived in the islands Thursday after attending the Pacific Asia Commander's Conference in Singapore, said he met with the head of the Indonesian army -- his military counterpart -- several times and left that message with him.
The "clear message" was that "we were troubled by what we saw happening in East Timor and that we expected control and protection of the innocent to be ensured by the Indonesian army," Shinseki told a crowd of nearly 1,500 people who turned out to greet him at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Whether the U.S. Army will be involved in providing support in quelling the East Timor crisis will have to be determined by national policymakers, Shinseki later said at a news conference.
It was Shinseki's first visit to Hawaii since assuming the job two months ago as the 34th chief of staff of the nation's 470,000-member Army.
Shinseki, 56, a 1960 Kauai High School graduate, is the highest-ranking Asian American in the U.S. military and was honored yesterday with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's highest award -- the Order of the Splintered Paddle.
Some patiently stood in line just to shake the general's hand or renew their acquaintance with his wife, Patricia, also a Kauai native.
Sakae Takahashi, a 100th Battalion veteran, noted: "We're all proud of him. He's risen to the highest position anyone in the Army can achieve."
University of Hawaii senior Courtney Blake, a former Army ROTC cadet battalion commander at the Manoa campus and a Kauai native, added: "He just shows that a local kid who comes from the country like me can make it big, just like he did. It proves that we can do it."
Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka said she had wanted to hold a reception honoring Shinseki in her island's stadium in Lihue.
"We wanted to have a huge welcoming home parade, but we couldn't do it this weekend since his stay is so short," she said. "We wanted him to speak to our young children and for him to inspire them."
Instead, Kusaka and a delegation of more than 70 people -- Kauai High classmates, his relatives (including his brother, Paul), friends, neighbors and politicians -- flew to Oahu to attend the Waikiki luncheon banquet.
Shinseki, a 1965 West Point graduate, was asked at the news conference if he felt the weight of being a role model.
"Not yet. I grew up with role models, people I looked up to, who were average-looking gentlemen ..." he said, referring to aging Japanese-American veterans.
"That is a responsibility I don't take lightly. There is responsibility that goes along with it -- discipline and hard work ... growing every day in your profession. Those are the kinds of things, if I were a role model, I would pass on. Things like committing yourself to your life's work."
As he has on several other occasions, the four-star general paid tribute to those who paved the way for him: members of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Military Intelligence Service and 1399th Engineers.
Shinseki acknowledged in his speech that he faces a major problem as recruiters expect to fall short of their goal by about 7,500 soldiers.
Part of the problem can be traced to the country's strong economy, Shinseki said. The other part of the problem is that youngsters today don't see the Army as part of their future, he added.
"To think that our leadership in the world -- politically, economically, and informationally -- has little or nothing to do with the quality of the armed forces we maintain in a deployed status is a bit shortsighted," he said.