CNMI Officials To Visit Hawaii Military Training Ranges

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Trip to allay concerns over proposed training areas

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 2, 2015) – The Marine Forces Pacific is making arrangements for local officials to visit training ranges in Hawaii.

Ret. Maj. Gen. Craig B. Whelden, Marine Forces Pacific executive director, told Variety that they invited the local officials to come over to Hawaii.

Following his and other Department of Defense officials’ meeting with Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas last week, Whelden said, "The mayor said he looks forward to the trip to Hawaii to see how we train Marines as well as how we protect the environment — even in live fire training range environments."

Whelden said that they are finalizing the trip for sometime in April "that fits all schedules."

He said he proposed two different weeks to the lieutenant governor’s office.

Whelden showed then-Lt. Gov. and now Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider and then-Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz how the U.S. military operates their ranges in Hawaii.

Although Dela Cruz had concerns about the artillery range, Whelden allayed those concerns, assuring him that safety was paramount "on any range, on any location that we go to."

Whelden, who served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, also told Variety in a prior interview that the U.S. military has had 200 years of experience in training soldiers with live ammunitions.

"We have a very fine-tuned process for ensuring that we maintain a safe training experience for the Marines."

Marine Forces Pacific is the executive agent for the CNMI Joint Military Training environmental impact study.

The CJMT EIS proposes to set up unit-level training areas and ranges on Tinian and combined-level training areas on Pagan to meet the 62 unfilled training requirements for the U.S. military in the region as cited by a study.

Tinian alone cannot meet the training requirements. Pagan alone cannot meet the requirements.

Pagan is where the U.S. military brings all the elements of training together — the run phase of a crawl-walk-run approach referred to by Whelden.

A draft EIS is due for release in April to be followed by a series of public hearings to gather input from the community.

The draft EIS is to be published in the Federal Register on April 3.

The Department of Defense officials propose to conduct public hearings on Saipan and Tinian April 29-30 and May 1.

The meetings will also accommodate discussions of the U.S. Air Force’s proposed hybrid alternative for the divert airfield operations proposal.

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