Governor vows aid
to military families

Gov. Linda Lingle says the state will do whatever it can to assist families of Schofield Barracks soldiers leaving in a few months for yearlong duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The state, family members and area businesses had been bracing for six-month deployments only to Afghanistan, but now will have to cope with longer and possibly more dangerous assignments for Hawaii-based soldiers.

"We are very concerned about the economic impact to the state, but also the impact on the families who are left behind, and we're doing outreach to them now, letting them know if there's any service that they feel the state could provide to please let us know," Lingle said on Friday. She said her staff has been in touch with top military officials.

In a major deployment change, the military announced Thursday that about 4,500 25th Infantry Division and Army Hawaii soldiers will leave for Iraq as early as February, with another 3,500 being sent to Afghanistan as early as April.

The 8,000 soldiers leaving represent two-thirds of the 12,000 personnel stationed at Schofield and Wheeler Field, an Army spokesman said.

Lingle said the economic impact on the state has yet to be determined.

"Clearly it's nearly 1 percent of the population of this island that you are talking about leaving at one time, and that's substantial," she said.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) said beyond the yearlong deployment of 8,000 soldiers, it's likely many family members also will leave the islands, affecting many area businesses that depend on military customers.

"I'm sure some of the families might feel more comfortable going back home to relatives on the mainland, so it might have an impact on the rentals and other businesses," he said.

"We're encouraging local people as much as possible to support their local businesses and shop local and spend local to make up for the loss from the 25th's deployment," Oshiro said.

To determine the potential impact, one can look to the business owners who were in Windward Oahu when about 7,500 Marines from the Kaneohe Marine Corps base deployed to the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Windward retailers, gas stations and restaurants saw double-digit drops in business and lost some employees with that deployment.

Lingle said she talked with Marine Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson on Thursday and he indicated he didn't believe there would be a comparable deployment at this time from Kaneohe.


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