Soldiers get taste of paniolo lifestyle at Ho‘ilina Ranch on Big Island
Soldiers from a U.S. Army facility on the Big Island recently got the chance to experience what it’s like to be a Hawaiian cowboy, or paniolo.
Members of the 25th Infantry Division, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, who are training at Pōhakuloa Training Area, took a trip during their off-duty time Feb. 11 to Ho‘ilina Ranch. Headquartered in Kea‘au, the ranch has had an agreement since 2017 with the Army training area that gives members of the U.S. Armed Forces training there an opportunity to gain insight and appreciation for Hawaiian culture, history and ranching traditions by visiting the ranch.
About 40 others, including a veterinarian from Keauhou Veterinarian Hospital and a representative from the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Division I state championship Konaweana High School football team, also participated in the Community Branding Day, which featured a mixed bag of cattle processing and calf branding.
Ranching and giving back to the community are some of ranch owner Korey Medeiros’ main passions. He opens up the ranch to many groups for educational and enrichment opportunities. “Ho‘ilina” means “community coming together” and Medeiros says his ranch has one goal in mind: “To protect our resources that we have left.”
“I do this to bring awareness of ranching and land conservation,” Medeiros said. “I also enjoy working with people.”
He works with many different organizations, including the Youth Challenge Academy, women’s and men’s rehabilitation centers and others. Medeiros also is a contractor for government agencies and ranchers helping with ranching and land management.
He grew up with a passion for the paniolo lifestyle and participated in Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs.
“Ho’ilina Ranch is both of those programs combined and on steroids!” Medeiros said.
He wants to “train and pass the torch to the younger generation so I can take my beautiful wife on vacation.” His wife Susan added: “Helping the cattle live a healthy, healing lifestyle is very important to us.”
First Lt. Katie Szewczyk of Youngstown, Ohio, who is a member of the 209th Aviation Support Battalion, said the ranch experience was amazing.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us,” Szewczyk said. “The partnership that [Pōhakuloa Training Area] and Ho‘ilina Ranch have together is, in my opinion, the definition of community outreach and bringing Hawai‘i together.”
Calf branding is not new to Spc. Graham Eastburn, an intelligence analyst with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield on O’ahu who grew up on a farm in Garden Plains, Kan., and participated in Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs. He came to the Big Island ranch do “whatever they need me to help with.”
“I want to express my thanks to Ho‘ilina Ranch for inviting us to their amazing ranch with their close family and friends from the community,” Eastburn said. “It was a great experience.”
Sgt. 1st Class Makerdi Charlery, who is originally from Saint Lucia and moved to New York before he enlisted, appreciated the opportunity to give back to the Big Island community, “which is what the Army stands for.”
“This was an exciting experience … you see this in the movies and to get to do it today, it was amazing,” said Charlery, who is an aircraft armament electrical supervisor with the 209th Aviation Support Battalion and also stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield.
Partnering with Ho’ilina Ranch is one of many ways PTA stays actively engaged with the community. Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, Pōhakuloa Training Area commander, said it’s important for military service members to be part of the community wherever they are stationed. Engagements like the Community Branding Day at Ho‘ilina Ranch provide unique experiences for the soldiers while building relationships in the community.
“We truly appreciate the long-standing partnership with Ho‘ilina Ranch and other local nonprofits to give back to the community, and provide experiences to learn about the wonderful Hawaiian culture,” Cronin said.