The Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, which two years ago drew 25 nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel to Hawaii and Southern California, is still on for this summer — at least right now, the Navy said Monday.
RIMPAC, running through the month of July, boosts Hawaii’s economy by more than $50 million.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command canceled Exercise Balikatan 2020, scheduled for May 4-15 in the Philippines, which last year saw the involvement of about 3,500 American service members.
Hundreds of Schofield Barracks soldiers were expected to participate this year. Military planners are looking for other engagement options.
Australia said Monday that after “careful deliberation” the government “decided not to proceed with the 2020 Marine Rotational Force — Darwin deployment at this time, given ongoing restrictions associated with COVID-19.”
The annual spring, six-month rotation of 2,500 Marines to Australia was to include Hawaii-based forces including MV-22 Ospreys, AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, RQ-21 Blackjack drones and some Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
Lt. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said in cooperation with Australia the deployment “is delayed at this time” with the understanding that “force protection must be a top priority for both countries.”
To be sure, it’s a confounding time at home and abroad for an Asia-Pacific U.S. military that needs to train and engage to keep the peace or fight and win if necessary in China, Russia and North Korea’s backyard.
The Pentagon on Monday made official previous pronouncements that the military would stop offering localized reporting on COVID-19 statistics — including for Hawaii — out of concerns that revealing hard-hit bases or units could compromise operational security.
Each of the services will provide a daily public update, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a release. The Pentagon will continue to provide a daily update of the full number of cases in all services and also for civilians, contractors and dependents.
“Base commanders are instructed to continue to work with local community health officials to share information on base community cases,” Farah said.
But as the COVID-19 crisis grows, “we will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or combatant commands,” she said, adding the Pentagon will do its best “to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security.”
Military-related COVID-19 cases across the Defense Department had risen to 1,087 with about 569 troops afflicted, as opposed to dependents or military civilians.
Hawaii military branches last reported — before being cut off Friday from doing so — about 15 cases through Tripler Army Medical Center.
All service branches in Hawaii have been and will continue to report daily to state health officials how many positive COVID-19 cases they have, state Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith said it tracks all COVID-19 cases in the region, including Hawaii.
All positive DOD cases in Hawaii are reported by the local service public health office — located at Tripler — to the state Health Department, said Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a spokeswoman for the command.
“This information is included in the state’s daily release,” she said.
In addition to positive cases, Indo-Pacific Command said it tracks individuals using the following classifications:
>> Persons Under Investigation. Individuals who are getting tested or awaiting results from a COVID-19 test, including individuals not at work because of COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath.
>> Restriction of Movement. A service member, civilian, contractor or family member who recently traveled to a suspect country, the mainland or a U.S. territory who are required to remain at home or in quarters for 14 days.
>> Quarantined. Individuals who have come into contact with a known COVID-19-positive individual and are at home or in quarters for 14 days as a precaution.