Army allowed to buy
land for Stryker unit


A federal judge has sided for the second time this week with the Army and against native Hawaiian groups fighting to block the Army's latest Stryker combat unit at Schofield Barracks.

The Army received court approval Tuesday to spend $15.9 million to purchase 1,402 acres of Campbell Estate land to expand the training areas at Schofield Barracks and construct a motor pool and a rifle and pistol range for its new Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Ron Borne, Army transformation manager at Schofield Barracks, said the land will be used to house the more than 300 Stryker combat vehicles to be assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team next year.

Borne said the Campbell Estate agricultural land is south of the 14,364 acres that make up Schofield Barracks and is near Kunia Village.

The first phase of the project, pegged at $50 million, will begin this fall, Borne said. The Army wants to construct a 193,923-square-foot motor pool and support maintenance shops.

The Army will spend an additional $5 million to build a firing range there which will support 10 rifle lanes and 16 for pistols. A control tower, maintenance building, security fence and service roads also will be built.

This was the second victory this week for the Army in its bid to spend $1.5 billion to convert one of Schofield Barracks' two combat brigades into a more mobile fighting force. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which just returned from a year in Iraq, was chosen to be the Army's fifth Stryker unit.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge David Ezra rejected a challenge by Earthjustice -- which represented Ilioulaokalani Coalition, Na Imi Pono and Kipuka -- to the Army's environmental impact statement. Ezra said the Army followed all requirements of existing federal environmental laws.

Earthjustice also filed another motion in October seeking to set aside a decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway, who had approved a stipulated agreement earlier under which the Army would pay the Campbell Estate $15.9 million for the Kunia land.

On Tuesday, Ezra denied Earthjustice's request to set aside the agreement.

In a written statement, the Army said Ezra's latest ruling "allows us to continue progress in transforming our forces to meet the emerging threats to our nation."

"Our soldiers need and deserve the best facilities possible to survive and win on today's battlefield, and the South Range acquisition area plays a significant role in providing essential space for these facilities," the Army said.

William Aila, spokesman for Na Imi Pono, said Ezra's latest decision "didn't surprise us."

"We kind of expected this," Aila said, referring to Ezra's ruling last year that refused to halt the project while their lawsuit was pending.

Aila said the three native Hawaiian and environmental groups are still discussing what legal steps to take next. They could ask that the decisions be reconsidered or appealed.

The groups alleged that the Army failed to consider locations other than Hawaii in its final environmental impact statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Army plans to spend $693 million on Oahu and the Big Island on 28 Stryker-related military construction projects in the next five years to build and upgrade existing facilities to accommodate the Strykers.

The first two dozen 19-ton, eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles will arrive at Schofield in May 2006. The Army hopes that the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat team with 810 additional soldiers will be operational a year later.

Last year, Army paid Campbell Estates $1 million for 71 acres adjacent to its Kahuku Training Area on Windward Oahu.

In 1999 the Army spent $23.5 million for 8,214 acres of Campbell Estate land in Kahuku.


On the Stryker path

Here are the future scheduled steps in the transformation of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Combat Brigade to a Stryker unit:

April 2005: Negotiations between the Army and the Richard Smart Estate can begin to buy 23,000 acres of Parker Ranch on the Big Island for use as a maneuver area.

Summer 2005: The 2nd Brigade begins to receive the additional 810 soldiers to bring it to full strength of 3,850 in October. Three-building complex housing the active-duty 535th Airlift Squadron and the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron, which will fly and maintain C-17 Globemaster cargo jets that will transport Strykers, becomes operational at Hickam Air Force Base.

January 2006: First of eight C-17 Globemaster transports arrives at Hickam. The remaining will be sent to Hickam at a rate of one each month.

May 2006: The first two dozen 19-ton, eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles arrive at Schofield Barracks. Eventually, the 2nd Brigade will get 300 Stryker vehicles that can be outfitted in 10 different ways, with everything from a 105 mm cannon for a mobile gun system to a completely wired command center. Each Stryker costs about $1.5 million.

May 2007: The 2nd Brigade is operational as the Army's fifth Stryker Brigade.

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