As the Honolulu Weekly reported below, the community turned out to protest the Army’s plan to establish an Asia-Pacific Fusion Counter-IED center at Makua. Like a pimp, the Army is soliciting other countries to use and abuse Makua. Stars and Stripes reported that in Thailand during “Cobra Gold” joint military exercises, “U.S. Army Pacific officials briefed the Thai brass on a new Asia-Pacific Fusion Counter-IED Center now starting up in Hawaii.” Time for the Army to get out of Makua.
Live-fire over the valley
Citizens ask why the Army needs Mākua at all
Feb 10, 2010
Image: Chris Nishijima
Tension was high at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center as Waianae Neighborhood Board Chair Jo Jordan opened the Feb. 2 meeting by leading a restive crowd in Hawaii Ponoi. When the song reached its traditional conclusion and most of the room started to sit, many in attendance carried on through the deeper verses of King David Kalakaua’s national anthem.
Before the meeting, Jordan offered condolences to the family and friends of her fellow board member, Michael Anderson, who died during a hiking accident the previous week. Anderson’s empty chair set a somber tone, as did the main business of the evening–the Army’s presence in Makua Valley.
Makua Valley spans more than 4,190 acres and has been the site of military training since World War II. In recent years, Native Hawaiians and environmentalists have been pressing the Army to reduce its impact in Makua, and to halt live-fire training in particular.
“Makua is a want of the Army, not a need,” said William Aila Jr., a Hawaiian cultural practitioner who is active in the community’s attempts to reduce the Army’s presence in the valley. Aila points out that the Army has not trained in Makua at any point during the past five years.
“This is the greatest indication that they don’t need Makua,” he said. “It is a need of the community.”
Others echoed Aila’s concerns, and said that the Army is not properly respecting the area as a sacred part of Hawaiian heritage.
But Army officials insist they understand the community’s concerns.
“We are not some big evil organization,” said Col. Matt Margotta, who represented the Army’s 25th Infantry Division. “We are attempting to better understand the Hawaii community.”
Margotta explained that Makua provides a unique setting which allows the Army to simulate a war zone without taking soldiers stationed on Oahu away from their families for an extended period of time. Margotta also pointed to ways in which the Army’s presence has helped improve the community. He said that the military has spent some $7 million toward repairing roads and $10 million toward protecting Hawaii’s endangered species, 41 of which can be found in Makua Valley.
“The Army recognizes that we have an impact on the community,” he said, “We are trying to change that.”
But many of those in attendance were not satisfied, and voiced concerns over the military turning the area into what they said amounts to a munitions trash heap.
“What you need to do is go back to Kahoolawe and clean it up!” said Shirley Nahoopii of Waianae. “You have not fulfilled your promise to clean up there after you were finished with it! Is Makua going to end up the same way?”
Concerns about the dangers of unexploded ordnances, or UXOs, left over from Army training are widespread in areas surrounding the Makua Valley. That’s why Apple, Inc., is donating more than 300 Apple MacBook computers, each equipped with a unique question-and-answer system, to select public schools.
“The students will be required to answer one question regarding UXOs before signing in,” said Tom Burke of the Hawaii Veteran’s Society, who announced the program at the meeting.
Despite these efforts, some found the program itself, which features a caricatured version of a Native Hawaiian, to be controversial.
“If this is a native, I think it is rather tasteless,” said Johnnie-Mae Perry, a member of the board.
The Army has yet to release a date to resume training in Makua. Another meeting with representatives of the 25th Infantry will announced by the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board within 60 days.