In the Military

Gregg K. Kakesako

See also: For Your Benefit


Afghanistan-bound troops
plan 3-island exercises

In preparation for deployment to Afghanistan next year, soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division will participate in the training exercise Lightning Thrust this week at Schofield Barracks, Kauai and the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.

About 7,000 Tropic Lightning soldiers from the 25th Division's 2nd Warrior Brigade will be deployed to Afghanistan by the end of the year to relieve the 10th Mountain Division. It will be the first large-scale deployment of the 25th Division since the Vietnam War in 1965. In Operation Blue Light from Hawaii to South Vietnam, the division conducted the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone before Operation Desert Shield.

Throughout this week, the 25th Division also will be conducting its annual anti-terrorism exercise at various installations on Oahu. The exercise will involve a simulated terrorist attack on a remote gate, a simulated terrorist attack involving a chemical bomb and a hostage situation.

The Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Hopper will be part of the 3rd Expeditionary Strike Group, which is being established by the Navy in the Pacific later this year. Expeditionary Strike Group-3 will be built on the framework established by the USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group-1, which visited Pearl Harbor last week on its maiden cruise.

ESG-3 will consist of the three amphibious ships, USS Belleau Wood, USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Comstock (LSD 45), joined for the first time by USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Hopper (DDG 7) and a submarine. Aboard flagship Belleau Wood, the commander of Amphibious Squadron 5 and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be joined by a newly formed one-star staff, headed by Brig. Gen. J.V. Medina.

A spokeswoman from the Navy's Pacific Fleet Submarine Force did not know if the Belleau Wood ESG's submarine will be one from Pearl Harbor. The cruiser USS Port Royal and the nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville, both from Pearl Harbor, are now on deployment with the Peleliu strike group.

Chad J. Sagaysay joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in his junior year at Waialua High School to carry on a family tradition of being in a National Guard family. His father, retired Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Sagaysay, was a recruiter and spent 27 years in uniform.

Now the younger Sagaysay is in Afghanistan with more than 60 other mechanics and members of B Company, 193rd Aviation helicopter maintenance unit as members of the 10th Mountain Division. His job and those of the rest of the Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers will be to provide helicopter maintenance for Army forces fighting Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts for Operation Enduring Freedom.

"When the war on terrorism escalated after 9/11, we never dreamed it would affect us too directly. The radar penciled us as a possible replacement unit and in July we got the call," Sagaysay said before he left.

Sagaysay works full time in the aviation unit's supply section. "Things have been hectic getting packed and ready, but we were ready and willing to go. I'm leaving behind my family, my dog, a new home and truck, but you have to do what you have to do."

There are fewer than 300 warships in the Navy, for the first time since 1917, with the Aug. 3 decommissioning of the destroyer USS Hayler and the Aug. 7 decommissioning of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. At the peak of the Cold War there were 568 warships. Now, the fleet numbers 299. The Bush administration is currently reducing the Navy to 292 warships in the fiscal year that will begin in October before building it back to 305 over the next five years.

The Pentagon has canceled this month's multinational "Bright Star" exercise in Egypt because of its commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and other operations in the war on terrorism. This will mean that since Oct. 1, 49 of 182 exercises originally planned have been canceled or rescheduled.

"This was an extremely difficult decision," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "Given our current worldwide commitments, it seemed best to take a temporary break from this exercise, as we did after Operation Desert Storm."

Bright Star is a combined exercise conducted biannually since 1981 in which more than 70,000 troops from more than 10 countries normally participate.

Moving up

Pearl Harbor: Cmdr. James E. Pitts has assumed command of nuclear attack submarine USS Tucson, relieving Cmdr. William F. Traub.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other
sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He can be reached can be reached by phone
at 294-4075 or by e-mail at


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