Stars and Stripes – Secretary of the Army supports renewal of training grounds in Hawaii


U.S. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth presents the Certificate of Oath of Office at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, August 9, 2021. Are business and community leaders appointed by the Secretary of the Army to advise and support Army leaders across the country. (Dennis Glass / US Army Reserve)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) – The first woman to serve as secretary of the military said on Monday that Hawaii is serving as an increasingly critical outpost in a world where China’s rising military has elevated the Indo-Pacific region as a priority theater.

And just as important are the military training grounds, a source of controversy for many decades in Hawaii, but which faced lease renewals over the decade.

“The training that the land provides here for the military and the joint forces at large is incredibly important,” said Christine Wormuth, who is visiting Hawaii for the first time since she was confirmed by the United States Senate in June in as 25th Secretary of the Army. .

Wormuth was visiting Oahu on Monday as part of a tri-state tour where she will also visit facilities in Washington state and Alaska. She landed here on Sunday and is due to leave today.

While on Oahu, Wormuth received briefings from senior leaders, toured military installations, and took a helicopter tour of military installations across the island.

On Monday evening, she presided over the investiture ceremony for Noelani Kalipi of Hilo, who was chosen as civilian assistant to the secretary of the army, one of two people in the state who liaise between the military and the civilian population. The other CASA, as they are called, is Gilbert Tam from Honolulu.

The military began work to try to keep nearly 30,000 acres of its training land in Hawaii, including controversial outposts such as the Makua Military Reservation on Oahu and the Pohakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawaii.

State land leases all expire in 2029.

In an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Wormuth said the military is looking for a way to renew leases in a way that allows training to continue while addressing community concerns.

“We absolutely want to respect the concerns of the local community and the concerns of the native Hawaiians and we want to make sure that we listen to them and try to respond to them as best we can,” she said.

“Part of the importance of having a CASA like Ms. Kalipi is that it provides us with very attentive eyes and ears, if you will, to help us with these concerns, and to be better able to understand those concerns and address those concerns, ”she said.

The military recently announced that it is preparing an environmental impact statement for the proposed retention of up to 6,300 acres of state-owned leased land in Oahu, including 1,170 acres in the Kahuku training area. , 4,370 acres in the Kawailoa / Poamoho training area and 760 acres in the Makua military reserve.

The total represents about one-third of the 18,060 acres of U.S. government and state-owned training grounds at the three Oahu sites.

Last year, the military said it was preparing an EIS to consider retaining 23,000 acres in the middle of Pohakuloa, a training field the service maintains is essential for military readiness in the Pacific. The parcel connects to 110,000 acres of adjacent US government land on either side.

But the military is likely to meet opposition from native Hawaiian and environmental groups who say the training desecrates the land, harms the environment, and pushes militarization where it is not wanted.

Wormuth, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, said the military was not the only branch training in Hawaii. In fact, the beauty of Hawaii, she said, is the ability of the different branches to train together and show the Chinese what a joint force can do.

“Our ability to demonstrate that we can operate as a joint force has a more deterrent value than if we simply operate on a service-by-service basis,” Wormuth said.

Kalipi, a Big Island consultant, was a former aide to US Senator Daniel Akaka and an army officer.

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