Pohakuloa has become the target of massive military expansion since 2001. First the Stryker brigade expansion led to a 23,000 acre land grab by the Army:
In 2006 the Army bought 23,000 acres from Parker Ranch for military maneuver training for $31.5 million, and it has spent $33.6 million for a Stryker armored vehicle “battle area complex” expected to open in 2012 at a separate spot at Pohakuloa. But that facility is mainly for Stryker gunnery, officials said.
Pohakuloa has 153 ranges, including the 566-acre housing and base operations area, and numerous firing ranges directed at a central 51,000-acre ordnance impact area.
Army soldiers, Hawaii-based and transiting Marines, and the Hawaii National Guard are among the ground forces that regularly train at Pohakuloa, officials said.
Artillery, mortars, rockets and missiles are fired at Pohakuloa, and Air Force bombers drop dummy bombs on the range.
The high-altitude helicopter training plan seeks to standardize and make an annual requirement of similar exercises that were held at Pohakuloa in 2003, 2004 and 2006, a change that reflects new Army doctrine, according to documents.
The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Schofield would use the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa training as it too prepares for deployment to Afghanistan, where operations routinely exceed 10,000 feet.
Six existing landing zones would be used for approach, landings and takeoff at elevations above 8,000 feet under high winds, extreme temperatures and during night operations.
The training was examined in an environmental assessment separate from the infantry plans. A draft finding of “no significant impact” was released in December.
Helicopter training hours at Pohakuloa would be increased by 30 percent to 6,000 total hours based on 300 to 400 aviators receiving the training, the Army said.
People will resist:
The Army faces opposition to the Pohakuloa plan from some Big Island residents, including peace activist Jim Albertini.
Albertini said in a statement following a public meeting held by the Army on the modernization plan that he is concerned about depleted uranium left over from a 1960s weapon system used at Pohakuloa.
“There has been plenty of money over the years for military buildup but very little funding for military cleanup. It’s time to change those priorities,” Albertini said. “The bottom line is this: Hawaii residents don’t want the U.S. military training to do to others what the U.S. has already done to Hawaii — overthrow and occupy its government and nation and contaminate its air, land, water, people, plants and animals with military toxins.”
The destruction of Pohakuloa, Makua, Kaho’olawe is not simply a result of “training”. What is happening to Pohakuloa is symptomatic of the wars that have become permanent fixtures of these islands. It exposes the Big Lie of Empire: “Pax Americana” – the American Peace. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the slopes of Mauna Kea, Empire is endless war.
As Ann Wright recently shared about her trip to Afghanistan, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have engaged in several global call-in days. People from around the world having conversations with youth from a remote part of Afghanistan. For those who still justify the war in Afghanistan and the military training in Hawai’i in preparation for that war, listen to these youth: http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/
Upgrade in sight
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 22, 2011
The Army wants to modernize its vast Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island for the 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops who use it each year, and increase high-altitude helicopter training on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa to meet a shift in emphasis to Afghanistan.
An Infantry Platoon Battle Area at 133,000-acre Pohakuloa that also could be used for companies of about 150 soldiers — and replace past live-fire training at Makua Valley — is a priority for the Army, with the service hoping it can begin construction in 2013.