Abercrombie confirms
Stryker unit coming to isles

Hawaii has more than
$100 million so far for
infrastructure support

Hawaii should get a substantial boost from the Pentagon's long-delayed decision to convert a Schofield brigade to a Stryker combat force, local officials say.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie confirmed the Pentagon's decision, which was first released yesterday by the Inside the Army newsletter.

He said the addition of more soldiers -- 810 to the Army post in Wahiawa, as well as a new squadron of eight C-17 jet transports with 500 more personnel at Hickam Air Force Base -- will be "a boon for Hawaii's economy."

"The Hawaii congressional delegation has already secured more than $100 million for infrastructure to support the brigade, and that's only the beginning," he said in a written statement.

The Stryker unit is designed to deploy anywhere in the world within 96 hours on C-17 or other cargo planes. The unit is organized around the $2 million eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker vehicles.

"Obviously, this reinforces the importance of Hawaii as a forward base in the Pacific," said James Tollefson, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. "It will help the U.S. respond quickly to military aggression."

Tollefson said although the chamber has not projected the financial implications of the changes at Schofield, he believes "it is going to be very good."

Army officials here declined to make any comments until an official announcement is made by the Pentagon later this week.

Col. Gary Ishikawa, deputy adjutant general for the state Department of Defense, said Gov. Linda Lingle's administration applauds the decision while recognizing that the Army still must complete a thorough environmental impact statement.

"The decision by the Pentagon is very relevant and acknowledges the importance of the Pacific basin," said Ishikawa, whose son, Capt. Jonathan Ishikawa, is in Iraq with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash. -- the first Stryker unit to go into combat.

The Fort Lewis Strykers were among the first 300 fielded by the Army under a concept proposed by former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, a native of Kauai, and other Army leaders.

Yesterday, Abercrombie said he confirmed from his military sources that one of two brigades assigned to Schofield Barracks will become the fifth Stryker unit and receive the Army's newest Comanche helicopters and 155 mm howitzer cannons.

The new $32 million RAH-66 Comanche helicopters will replace the OH-58 Kiowa warriors that are part of the 25th Infantry Division's flying arsenal. However, the Kiowas are expected to remain at Schofield Barracks until 2009 when the twin-engine, two-seat Comanches are combat-ready.

The Army expects the Schofield Barracks' 2nd Brigade to begin receiving the new soldiers in 2005 and the Strykers a year later. The Army plans to spend $693 million on 28 construction projects here and on the Big Island to accommodate the Strykers.

Before then the 2nd Brigade will take 4,500 soldiers to western Iraq in February for a year when it joins the 1st Marine Division in replacing the 82nd Airborne Division.


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