POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Army probing Schofield man's death

The Army has started an investigation into the non-combat death of a Schofield Barracks soldier from North Texas who had been in the Army for less than a year and who died in Iraq on Sunday.

The Pentagon reported today that Pvt. Sean P. McCune, 20, of Euless, Texas, died in Samarra of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The Army did not say how McCune was killed.

McCune had enlisted in the Army in April and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade three months later. The 3rd Brigade deployed to Iraq in October.

It was the 3rd Brigade's second death since leaving Wahiawa.

On Dec. 30, Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter, 20, of Chester Heights, Pa., was shot while standing watch in the gun turret of his Humvee in Tikrit. He died in Balad a day later. He was assigned to the 3rd Brigade's 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment.

This is the 3rd Brigade's third wartime deployment. It has been to Afghanistan in 2004 and northern Iraq twice.

Since the Iraq war began six years ago 92 soldiers, four sailors, 84 Marines, two Air Force personnel and one civilian with Hawaii ties have been killed there.

234 residents will get disaster cash

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved more than $400,000 in assistance to 234 Oahu residents who suffered damage in the heavy rain that hit the island Dec. 10-16.

Of the $416,480 in approved funds, $374,872 have been designated for disaster housing assistance, which provides for repairs to minimally damaged homes and helps renters and homeowners when their homes are uninhabitable.

Affected residents are encouraged to register for federal disaster assistance by calling (800) 621-3362 or, for hearing- or speech-impaired TTY, (800) 462-7585. They can also register by going online at

Shinseki hearing will be on Internet

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka, will hold a hearing on the designation of Kauai-born Army Gen. Eric “;Ric”; Shinseki to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The hearing will be shown live on the Web at

Shinseki, a 1965 West Point graduate, was appointed to serve as the Army's chief of staff by President Clinton on June 22, 1999.

As Army chief in 2003, he ran afoul of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he told Congress that “;several hundred thousand”; U.S. soldiers would be needed in postwar Iraq, an estimate the Army later conceded was on target.

When Shinseki retired from the military in 2003, he had served for 38 years. During his career he held numerous positions, including commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood in Texas and commanding general of U.S. Army Europe.

UH trio competes in genetics contest

Three University of Hawaii undergraduate students recently returned from the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition with a bronze medal and a “;best rookie team”; award.

Recognized for a project that involved genetically engineering cyanobacteria were Grace Kwan, Krystle Salazar and Margaret Ruzicka.

They beat out such prominent schools as Duke, Princeton and Columbia for their awards.

Kwan, an Aiea High School graduate, is a senior in the UH-Manoa microbiology program. Salazar, a Moanalua High School graduate, is a senior in the bioengineering program. Ruzicka, from Houston, just finished her undergraduate work in the UH Plant and Environmental Biotechnology Program and will begin graduate work this fall.

Norman Wang, a third-year graduate student and team adviser, said the competition, held annually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, drew 84 teams with more than 1,000 participants from 21 countries.

“;They specified, designed, built and tested simple biological systems made from standard, interchangeable biological parts,”; he said.

They presented their results at the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) Championship Jamboree Nov. 8-9 in Boston.

Their faculty instructors are Gernot Presting, assistant professor of molecular biosciences and bioengineering; Sean Callahan, assistant professor of microbiology; and Loren Gautz, professor of molecular biosciences.