Bases of Readiness: Installation Sustainability and the Future of Transformation

July 8, 2003

Weeks after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, soldiers and environmentalists stood outside a chain-link gate in Hawaiiís Makua Valley and announced the resolution of a lawsuit that had cut off live-fire training for three years.

"The issues that once divided us no longer seem as important as the cause that now unites us," Major General James M. Dubik, commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light), told reporters that morning.

The settlement announced that day with the environmental legal firm Earth Justice and local group Malama Makua restricted the Army to 39 company-level, live-fire exercises over three years and, among its provisions, required the Army to complete an environmental impact statement.

Partnerships forged in crisis can be fragile. A public meeting in March 2002 barely six months later drew more than 80 community members, who spoke on both sides of the issue. Malama Makua board member Sparky Rodriguez said there is "no limit" to issues that might be raised in subsequent meetings. He mentioned land use, sovereignty, unexploded ordnance and environmental contamination as possibilities. Obviously the "issues" were still potentially very divisive.

This conflict in "paradise" represents, in miniature, the challenges the Army must face as it struggles to sustain its readiness capacity while fulfilling its 21st century environmental responsibilities.

"We have two obligations," said Colonel (Promotable) John C. Woods, assistant division commander (operations) for the 25th Infantry Division. "To ensure our soldiers are trained and ready, and to protect the environment entrusted to our care."