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Fort Shafter's Role in Pacific Rises with Plan

Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Up to 1,650 more troops will be based in Hawai'i as part of a reorganization of U.S. Army, Pacific at Fort Shafter as a war-fighting headquarters with rapidly deployable subcommands.

An environmental assessment says that a 225,000-square-foot command and control center and multistory barracks for 150 soldiers would be built at Fort Shafter as part of the plan, and 450 more military vehicles will be brought to O'ahu.

Fort Shafter is primarily an administrative headquarters now with troops who do not deploy. That would change with the Pacific becoming the center of gravity for potential threats to the U.S. and 70,000 U.S. forces being relocated from such countries as Germany and South Korea back to U.S. territory.

"A theater Army headquarters stationed in this (area of operation) must be rapidly deployable and capable of deploying to command and control corps, divisions, brigade combat teams and support brigades or to operate as the regional combatant commander's land component command headquarters anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region," the assessment released yesterday states.

The changes are expected to start this year and continue through late 2008. The public has until Sept. 7 to comment on the environmental assessment and draft finding of no significant impact for the plan.

The report said the additional troops, mostly soldiers but also other service members, will have a positive impact on the economy, and that in 2005 per capita defense spending reached $3,779. But the basing also will mean an additional 749 school-age children on O'ahu and the possibility of a "significant impact on some schools."

More than 1,000 additional soldiers were brought to Hawai'i for the Army's Stryker brigade, and more troops are likely to come as the military consolidates around Pacific locations like Guam and Hawai'i, and Mainland bases.

According to the Army's environmental assessment, the 590-acre Fort Shafter "employs" 1,311 military personnel and 2,063 civilians. Schofield Barracks has 11,826 military personnel and 3,757 civilian workers.

The worldwide restructuring, the Army's largest since World War II, includes a transition to a more modular and expeditionary force with greater self-contained firepower that the military said will increase combat power by 30 percent and increase the Army's pool of fighting forces by 50 percent.

Consideration also is being given to merging the four-star job of the U.S. Forces Korea commander with other Pacific responsibilities in a shift that could bring the position to Hawai'i.

"We are going to have one Army services component command for the theater," said Lt. Col. John Williams, a spokesman for U.S. Army, Pacific. "Right now, there are two — one is in Korea, and that's a four-star, and one is here."

Williams said a consolidation is based on South Korea taking over for U.S. troops in that country.

"Right now, the conditions are leaning toward having one component four-star here in Hawai'i," Williams said.

The Army's "preferred" alternative for the additional 1,650 troops involves spreading them around the island, with 1,175 at Fort Shafter, 300 at Wheeler Army Airfield, and 100 at Tripler Army Medical Center. Off-base housing also is part of the plan.

Among the troop and unit movements outlined in the environmental assessment:

• The U.S. Army, Pacific headquarters restructuring from an administrative post to a war-fighting headquarters would begin in June 2007. A 225,000-square-foot command and control center at Fort Shafter would be built in 2011, with existing facilities consolidating space in the meantime.

• The 8th Theater Support Command would be activated next month, and approximately 550 additional soldiers would be stationed at Fort Shafter with 145 vehicles.

• The 311th Signal Command (Theater) would include active and reserve forces, and a sub-unit, the 307th Integrated Theater Signal Battalion, would be moved to Hawai'i from South Korea, resulting in an increase of 300 soldiers.

• The Theater Intelligence Brigade would incorporate the 500th Military Intelligence Group at Schofield. Officials previously said the capability would be increased to include 1,000 intelligence specialists in the Pacific. The brigade would be activated in July 2007.

• The Medical Deployment Support Command Main could be deployed or remain in a safe area as the primary command and control for medical units in the theater of operation. The command is expected to be activated in May 2008.

This article can be viewed at http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2006/Aug/10/ln/FP608100341.html