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thedrifter
11-26-05, 02:20 PM
Posted on: Saturday, November 26, 2005
More troops coming to O'ahu
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

As part of the biggest reorganization of the Army since World War II, Schofield Barracks will add 1,000 soldiers for its Stryker Brigade and another 1,000 for other new units, and more troops will likely be on the way to Hawai'i for years to come.

The Schofield troop arrivals are in conjunction with plans for bringing 300 Stryker armored vehicles to Hawai'i, a new Iraq deployment, a major housing renovation and dozens of unit deactivations and activations under a drive to give brigades more self-contained firepower and enable them to be more expeditionary like the Marines.

Ron Borne, the director of transformation for the Army in Hawai'i, said a former division commander likened the evolution to changing a car tire while the car is moving.

"I think we all agree that at this point it is busy (here), it's a hectic time and it's a historical and impacting time," Borne said.

An increasing focus on the Pacific and instabilities in the region have propelled additions such as the Stryker Brigade and consideration of an aircraft carrier for Hawai'i. A decision on the latter is expected out of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review in February.

A recent joint U.S.-Japan defense agreement noted that the "U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region is a core capability that is indispensable to regional peace and security."

The 1,000 new soldiers for the Stryker Brigade were announced in late September. The Army has been working through the transformation to a lighter, faster-responding force first with the announcement of seven Stryker Brigades, and more recently on an overall increase from 33 to 43 brigades and an improvement in war-fighting capability.

At Fort Shafter, 194 new service members recently were added with the activation of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, and the four-star general billet in South Korea could be moved to Hawai'i.

The Associated Press previously reported that Hawai'i would gain 3,700 troops by 2011 as 50,000 service members are brought home to the United States from Germany and South Korea.

BURDEN ON RESOURCES

William Aila, a member of Hui Malama 'O Makua, a group of Hawaiian practitioners, said the troop additions add up to a greater burden on electricity, water and rental housing on O'ahu.

"When you add up that many more individuals and you add the 5,000 more personnel that might be coming with the aircraft carrier task force, that's going to have huge impacts that we're not prepared for," he said.

Aila said he also heard that 1,700 Marines out of Okinawa would be moving to Hawai'i.

Chuck Little, a spokesman for Marine Forces Pacific at Camp Smith, said Aila's information is incorrect.

"Nobody has said anything about moving Marines from Okinawa to Hawai'i," he said. "... That's not to say at some point down the road that decision might be made. But there's been no decision made at this time to relocate any Marines from Okinawa to Hawai'i."

Borne noted the 2,000 additional soldiers would bring the 25th Infantry Division (Light) total at Schofield Barracks to about 15,000, compared to almost 16,000 in the mid-1990s when a brigade of about 3,500 — now at Fort Lewis, Wash. — was stationed here.

Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii chief economist, has said troop increases need to be put into perspective with the number of military personnel here dropping from 60,000 to around 40,000 since the late 1990s.

"That's fine," Aila said, "but the civilian population has been growing, too, significantly."

The new Army organization means that brigade combat teams are either Stryker, light infantry, or heavy brigades with tanks.

CHANGES UNDER WAY

The 2nd Brigade at Schofield is being transformed to a Stryker Brigade based around speedy, eight-wheeled vehicles that will come in 10 configurations from troop carrier to mobile howitzer.

The 3rd Brigade will continue to use Humvees and trucks, but also will have added assets such as artillery and intelligence, which were formerly available at the division level, to make it more robust and self-sustaining.

Units that have or will be disbanding include the 125th Military Intelligence and 65th Engineer battalions; the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment; the 68th Medical Company (Air Ambulance); and 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment.

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade will activate two units by January, the 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, and the 209th Aviation Support Battalion, among other changes that are under way.

Seven thousand soldiers from Schofield Barracks are slated to deploy to Iraq next year. Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, division headquarters and aviation brigade are expected to be in Iraq next summer.

Borne said in many cases, soldiers deactivating from one unit will be used to build up another.

In the case of the aviation brigade, executive officer Maj. Gregory A. Baker told the base newspaper that about 1,000 soldiers would be added to the unit, which also would receive an additional eight UH-60 Black Hawks, six CH-47 Chinooks and 36 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors before deployment.

However, part of that force is expected to be moved to Alaska. The 25th Division now has 39 Black Hawks, nine Chinooks and 40 Kiowas, officials said. After the changes are made, the division will have 50 Black Hawks, 12 Chinooks, and 30 Kiowas — a net increase of four helicopters.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Ellie