The Army said it is considering basing Stryker armored vehicles at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island as part of a larger plan to pre-position equipment, on land or on ships, around Asia and the Pacific to improve training, engagement and response times, and to keep costs down.
The 19-ton Strykers could come from existing stock at Schofield Barracks, or from overseas with the end of the Iraq War and the 2014 end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, officials said.
"Basically, the way the budget is going, nothing is off the table right now, and so there are a lot of ideas, a lot of plans out there that are being looked at," said Jim Guzior, a spokesman for U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter. "It doesn't mean that we have even crossed the threshold of doing a feasibility analysis or cost analysis."
"But right now we're beginning to look at the possibility of positioning Stryker vehicles at PTA in order to reduce the transportation costs for training there," Guzior said.
How many of the eight-wheeled vehicles would be based at PTA is unclear.
The possible Hawaii island Stryker basing was revealed as U.S. Army Pacific officials talked in recent days about the U.S. military's moves to "re-balance" forces to Asia and the Pacific.
Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, said during a panel discussion Tuesday that the Army is looking at ways to pre-position equipment in the region.
"What does that do for us? Well, first it allows us to train with our partners, allies and friends without being pre-stationed or forward-based in foreign countries," Wiercinski said. "Quite frankly, there's not an appetite for U.S. forces to be forward-stationed in foreign countries. But there's a huge appetite to be training and engaging with the United States Army."
Wiercinski made his remarks at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, D.C.
Unlike the Marine Corps, which has begun to rotate units to northern Australia, the Army wants to pre-position equipment only. The Army is also looking at Australia, among other locations.
"A lot of equipment is coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has to go somewhere," Wiercinski said Monday during a bloggers round-table discussion run by the Pentagon.
Instead of mothballing that equipment on the mainland, some of it could be pre-positioned across Asia and the Pacific, Wiercinski said.
Maj. Gen. Roger Mathews, deputy commander of U.S. Army Pacific, told the Army Times, "We've got great training facilities in Hawaii and Alaska and (South) Korea, and now we've got to find a way to leverage those facilities without moving a lot of equipment and troops around."
"We're looking at positioning Stryker units on the Big Island so we can have them participate in training. We're in talks with Australia for some positioning there, as well," Mathews said.
If equipment is pre-positioned forward, all that would have be moved later are the troops, Wiercinski said.
"Quite frankly, I could move an entire battalion of soldiers in two 747s," he said. "That's an incredible savings instead of shipping and multiple sorties of C-17s and C-5s to move heavy equipment. If we could have it pre-positioned in strategic locations or afloat, we could reduce, once again, the tyranny of distance. We reduce the time factor and we reduce the cost factor."
The Navy already has pre-positioned ships with military equipment and supplies in locations including Guam and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Stryker vehicles are shipped back and forth from Schofield Barracks to Hawaii island as troops train. Soldiers and Strykers with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry "Gimlets" trained at Pohakuloa in September.
The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Hawaii has been made up of more than 4,500 soldiers and 350 of the armored vehicles in the past. How many Strykers are in Hawaii now was not made clear by the Army on Tuesday.
The Army has about 70,000 soldiers in the Pacific.
The Pentagon's Air-Sea Battle concept, emphasizing the Air Force and Navy as a deterrent to China and Iran, has received a lot of attention, but Wiercinski said that 27 of 28 nations in the region with militaries are army-dominated.
Military exercises and engagement with other nations are on the rise.
"It takes all of (the services) to do the mission," Wiercinski said.