Schofield Barracks on Oahu will lose 1,214 soldiers — 8 percent of its personnel — as part of a cost-saving plan to reduce the active-duty force by 40,000 troops over the coming two years.
The Army plans to pull Stryker combat vehicles out of Hawaii and convert the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield into an infantry brigade combat team, U.S. Army Pacific said in a statement. The reorganized combat team will be considered a “light” unit of soldiers traveling on foot instead of on tanks or other heavy vehicles, the AP reported.
If Congress and the White House cannot settle their budget disputes, Army officials said Thursday, even deeper troop reductions would result, according to the Associated Press.
Thursday’s announcement was far from the worst-case scenario for Hawaiil described in January by U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, who said then it was possible that the state could lose “approximately 20,000 soldiers and civilians from Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks, along with another 30,000 of their family members. The communities around Schofield Barracks would lose approximately 30 percent of their population, causing an annual economic loss to the state of about $1.35 billion.”
Overall, Hawaii is losing 1,214 soldiers but gaining a medical headquarters.
The Star-Advertiser reported that the Army also announced it’s moving its western medical headquarters from Washington state to Hawaii. The Western Regional Medical Command, which is in charge of Army hospitals in 20 Western states, is at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The command has about 165 employees led by a major general. A two-star general position will be relocated to Honolulu, home of the Army’s Pacific headquarters. The medical commander would oversee health care and find ways to support military engagements along the Pacific Rim with foreign allies.
Here’s how members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation reacted to the news.
• Rep. Takai: “The Army reiterated the importance of the Pacific today when announcing the impacts of their force structure realignment and the impacts on Hawaii. The fact that Hawaii gains mission expansion in the shift of major medical personnel and an Air Defense Headquarters shows that the Army is committed to our state long term.”
• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “At a time when our nation faces growing security challenges around the world, cutting 40,000 troops from the U.S. Army needlessly puts our country at risk. This reduction is occurring due to arbitrary budget ceilings in the Budget Control Act, without any consideration of what is in our strategic best interest.”
• Sen. Brian Schatz:“Through our collective efforts we have been able to protect the vast majority of the soldiers here in Hawaii. It is disappointing that the Army made these reductions, but given the magnitude of the cuts that were contemplated, we are relieved that the worst case scenario did not occur.”
• Sen. Mazie Hirono: “While unfortunate, the announcement from the Department of the Army was expected and, for our state, limited in scope. “The importance of a strong military presence in Hawaii, to lead the strategic Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, cannot be stressed enough and is vital to protecting our nation’s interests. That is why the Budget Control Act, which mandated sequester levels, is dangerous. The Army’s proposal is a clear and concrete example of the impact the sequester could have on Hawaii.”
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