Strykers get mixed reaction on O'ahu & Big Island roads

FYI
Article states Strykers were doing live-fire training at Pohakuloa.
Jim Albertini
Malu `Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action
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Phone 808-966-7622
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www.malu-aina.org

Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2007

Strykers get mixed reaction on O'ahu roads — and lots of waves on Big Island

Strykers gallery
Video: Strykers return to Schofield


By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer




A convoy of Stryker vehicles heads north on the H-2 Freeway, back to Schofield Barracks. The vehicles and their crews were returning to base after training at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.



RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser





Motorists coming from H-1 Freeway merge with a convoy of Strykers heading north on H-2. About the only problem with yesterday's convoy came with motorists who were uncertain whether to merge into the slow-moving column or wait at the on-ramp for it to pass.



RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser





WAIPI'O PENINSULA — The Army transport vessel pulled up at 6:40 a.m., dropped its bow ramp, and within an hour, Schofield Barracks soldiers had offloaded 13 Strykers, 25 other vehicles and some shipping containers.

The Stryker crews then waited in the shade for two hours before driving back to post yesterday.

"The whole reason is to stay out of the traffic," explained Maj. Jim Craig, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Golden Dragons.

The battalion, with more than 650 soldiers and 77 Stryker vehicles, was the last of six to conduct several weeks of live-fire and convoy training at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island in preparation for a December deployment to Iraq.

For an Army stung by an environmental lawsuit and worried about public reception to the Strykers, that meant convoying repeatedly on public roads to and from the dock at Waipi'o Point and Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island.

It was the first real chance for the public to share the road with Strykers, and for the soldiers to see the reaction to being on the road.

"It's the initial shock, I guess, how big they are and how many there are on the road," said Sgt. Clayton Hatcher, 27, from Panama City, Fla. "When we got to the Big Island, people were waving, but over here (on O'ahu, the reaction) is mixed."

Hatcher said a "lot of younger soldiers, they don't know" about the controversy over the Stryker brigade, but noncommissioned officers "are trying to tread lightly" as the new unit eases into the public spotlight.

"It's new for everyone. We're not trying to make people angry," Hatcher said. "It (the Stryker vehicle) is new to them, it's new to us, so everyone's got the shock effect going on."

SMOOTH RIDE SO FAR

The Army aimed for convoys of 10 and no more than 14 to keep traffic impact to a minimum during the recent deployment to the Big Island, officials said. The convoys also were run at off-peak hours and with Army safety office and police escort front and back.

A federal appeals court in October found that the Army violated federal environmental law by not considering locations outside Hawai'i for the $1.5 billion Stryker brigade and ordered the service to do so, a process that still could take more than a year.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra subsequently ruled in Honolulu that the Army could complete only those projects and conduct training considered absolutely necessary to prepare the nearly 4,000-soldier brigade to deploy to Iraq.

The environmental group Earthjustice maintains Mainland locations are better suited for the Stryker brigade, with less of an impact on the land and Hawaiian cultural features.

Honolulu Police Department communications doesn't track complaints over Strykers on the road, but officials weren't aware of any being made.

As 10 Strykers headed up H-2 Freeway to Schofield yesterday at about 9:45 a.m., about the only problem came with motorists not knowing if they should merge into the slow-moving column or wait at the on-ramp for it to pass. Two more convoys with trucks and the remaining few Strykers followed later.

Hatcher said "it felt pretty good going over there (to the Big Island). I wouldn't call it patriotism, but there were a lot of honking horns. Of course, we saw some of those 'No Stryker' stickers."

'SPEED IS SECURITY'

First Lt. Justin Disher, 24, from Moraga, Calif., said "it's fun to get people to throw us the hang loose as we drive along." He added there were "a lot of smiles, a lot of waves. I think people are a little more accepting (of Strykers) over there on the Big Island than on O'ahu."

It was also the first time driving the Saddle Road, with its dips, turns and potholes. Three Strykers broke down, but Disher said overall, the 20-ton vehicles, which had to climb 7,000 feet in altitude, "did great."

Craig, the battalion's executive officer, said the 45-mile drive from Kawaihae Harbor to Pohakuloa itself was good training. "The next time we do that, we'll probably be in theater," he said.

Each platoon was able to do three scenarios of live fire at Pohakuloa — "stuff we're not able to do on O'ahu," Craig said.

Schofield's Stryker vehicles (of the 328 expected, 311 are on island now) will be here for another couple of months, but then are likely to be gone for more than a year and a half.

Two months of training with the armored vehicles will be conducted in August and September at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California, with its more than 1,000 square miles of maneuver area and firing ranges.

Stryker brigade commander Col. Stefan Banach said the Stryker vehicles likely would be shipped to the Middle East from the West Coast following the training for what's expected to be a 15-month Iraq deployment.

At the National Training Center, the Strykers will be able to drive flat-out, something they can't do here. The eight-wheeled vehicles can hit 70 mph on the highway.

"Speed is security for us — that's a great benefit," Disher said.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

==================



Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2007/05/17/news/story08.html
© 1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin | www.starbulletin.com



Vol. 12, Issue 137 - Thursday, May 17, 2007
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A Stryker military combat vehicle dwarfed a regular-size car on the H-2 yesterday as it headed home to Schofield Barracks. An Army supply vessel delivered the vehicles to Waipio Point yesterday morning. The Strykers have been training on the Big Island. CLICK FOR LARGE










Stryker team readies for long tour

By Gregg K. Kakesako
gkakesako@starbulletin.com
It will be a busy summer for the nearly 4,000-member 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team as it prepares for a yearlong Iraq deployment beginning in December.

The more than 650 soldiers belonging to Schofield Barracks' "Golden Dragons" battalion were the last combat team members yesterday to complete a nearly monthlong training rotation at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.

The 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, received all 59 of its 19-ton, eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles 2 1/2 months ago.

In two weeks the brigade will participate in its final exercise at Schofield Barracks.

Maj. Jim Craig, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, said following the weeklong exercise his soldiers will go on a 10-day leave starting with the Fourth of July holiday.

Then they will begin packing for a two-month tour at the National Training Center in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

That rotation will include a final certification ensuring that the entire Stryker brigade is ready for an Iraq deployment that could last up to 15 months.

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A convoy of Stryker military combat vehicles cruised down the H-2 freeway yesterday en route to Schofield Barracks. The Strykers, which have been used in training on the Big Island, arrived on Oahu yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE








Yesterday, Craig oversaw the unloading operations of 38 vehicles, including 13 Strykers, at West Loch's Waipio Peninsula. The unit had been at Pohakuloa since April 19."We were able to do three different live-fire scenarios there that we are unable to do on Oahu," Craig said.

Even the convoy movement on the 45-mile trek on the Saddle Road to and from Kawaihae Harbor was instructional, he added. "Nowhere else can we do such movements here. The next time we do that will be in theater (Iraq)."

Small mechanical problems with the Strykers or other vehicles added realism to the convoy movement, he said. "All in all, it was a great training event for our battalion."

The 13 Strykers and 25 smaller trucks and vans were squeezed into the Army's 273-foot transport vessel Harold Clinger. There were only inches to spare between the parked vehicles on the Clinger's 9,000-square-foot cargo deck.

The Clinger is one of three Army vessels stationed at the Navy's Alpha docks in Hickam Air Force Base. However, with one of the vessels in a West Coast shipyard for repairs and the third still awaiting certification, the demand for the Clinger has been heavy, said Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Deck, the vessel's chief mate and executive officer. "But that is what we do."

Since January the Clinger has been at sea for 72 days.

Deck said it takes about 14 hours to sail from Pearl Harbor to Kawaihae.

In most instances its cargo has been ammunition and troops.

Yesterday, it took less than 30 minutes to empty the cargo deck of the Clinger after it was driven up to the shoreline at Waipio Point. The 38 vehicles were split into three groups and escorted by police to Schofield Barracks.

On May 31 the Golden Dragons will welcome a new commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Boccadi, who is relieving Lt. Col. Robert Mundell. Four of the brigade's other five battalions will also get new leadership.

On June 27 the brigade will get a new commander, Col. Todd McCaffrey, who will replace Col. Stefan Banach.






Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2007/05/17/news/story08.html
© 1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin | www.starbulletin.com







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