The Stryker Brigade
Compelled by a 2006 federal appellate court decision, the U.S. Army added Alaska and Colorado as possible alternative locations to Hawaii for 320 Stryker vehicles. But Hawaii is still the Army’s favored location for the $1.5 billion unit. Should the Stryker brigade be based here?
Daniel Inouye, U.S. Senator
The recent blackhawk helicopter crash in Iraq that killed Hawaii-based soldiers is a vivid reminder of the supreme sacrifices made by our nation’s soldiers and their families. Today, less than 1 percent of Americans volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform. They deserve our support, and the best equipment and training to do their jobs and return home safely.
In 2002, I voted against providing President George Bush with the authority to attack Iraq. I continue to believe it was an error. However, I will continue to fully support our troops, who are risking their lives in this war. The Stryker brigade issue should not be a referendum on the Iraq War. Stryker brigades are the most effective units in Iraq because they save soldiers’ lives.
Why should Strykers be in Hawaii? First and foremost, national security requires it. Hawaii was selected because of its strategic location and access to airports and seaports. Today, Southwest Asia is one of the frontlines on the war on terror. Terrorists are fighting in the Philippines and are active in Indonesia. We face a dangerous dictator in North Korea. It is essential to our security and way of life that we protect the Asia-Pacific region.
The Army is completing its supplemental environmental study, examining basing options in addition to Hawaii. I am hopeful it will reaffirm the Stryker’s presence in Hawaii. While Hawaii’s Stryker brigade departed a month earlier to complete its training on the Mainland before deploying, it carried out much of its training in Hawaii. This was important.
Our Hawaii-based soldiers should not be sent into combat less prepared, or taken away from their families any sooner than necessary—they are sacrificing enough. Let’s support them and their need to adequately train in Hawaii.
David Henkin, Attorney, Earthjustice, representing three Hawaiian groups in their lawsuit against the Army
Alarmist rhetoric claiming strykers are needed for national security obscures the real question. It is not whether the Army should have Strykers. It will. The question is whether Strykers should be stationed and trained in Hawaii’s fragile environment or somewhere the Army can accomplish its mission with less harm.
Before a court order forced the Army to halt Stryker-related construction last October, Hawaii’s people had already lost irreplaceable cultural treasures. Bulldozers clearing for Stryker facilities at Schofield Barracks had destroyed part of Haleauau heiau, and shattered centuries-old petroglyphs.
These losses would be only the tip of the iceberg if the Army permanently stationed a Stryker brigade here. The Army’s own environmental studies acknowledge Strykers would not only damage cultural sites, but would destroy native forests, kill endangered species, spark wildfires and generate excessive noise. Stryker training would cause permanent losses of endangered species and their habitats, including thousands of acres of sub-alpine tropical dryland habitat on Hawaii Island, one of the planet’s rarest ecosystems. Such harm is inevitable when training with 19-ton wheeled tanks.
Stationing Strykers in Hawaii is about pork-barrel politics, not military need. The Stryker is an urban-combat and open-terrain vehicle, unable to drive through heavy vegetation or over rugged ground. Unlike infantry, Strykers cannot take advantage of Hawaii’s jungles for training.
Nor would Strykers based in Hawaii be better able to protect national interests. The Army’s studies confirm Strykers could respond to crises in the Pacific as quickly from Alaska, and reach hotspots elsewhere more quickly from Alaska or the Mainland.
A recent Honolulu Star-Bulletin poll found nearly three-quarters of those surveyed opposed basing Strykers in Hawaii. This silent majority understands we should not sacrifice our cultural and natural heritage for the sake of a little more military pork.