Elected officials tour U.S. Army Pacific training lands
U.S. Army Pacific Commander Gen. Charles Flynn hosted county mayors from O‘ahu, the Big Island, and members of the Honolulu Chamber Military Advisory Committee on a land and arial tour of training areas utilized by America’s Theater Army in the Pacific.
O‘ahu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawai‘i Island Mayor Mitch Roth flew aboard Army Blackhawk
helicopters to view training areas, watched a combat assault, learned about Army jungle training, visited the military’s only seed farm, and gained firsthand knowledge of the rigorous training regimen of soldiers.
“It’s hard to say if one part was better than the other, but I can tell you this, as an old time broadcaster this was like ’60 Minutes’ on steroids, it was that good,” said Mayor Blangiardi after his aircraft touched down back at Palm Circle.
This was the first of more planned engagements between the Army and civilian leaders in an effort to better understand each other and seek opportunities for collaboration.
While the distinguished visitors flew over Fort Shafter, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Dillingham Field, it was the stop at Mauka Valley Training Area that garnered the most attention. The controversial valley was the site of intense military training throughout the twentieth century, but a court order in 2004 halted live fire training.
The Army continues to train in Mauka, but do so as dedicated stewards of the land, protecting the environment, preserving endangered plants, and replanting those that may have been taken out by rugged training activity of the past.
“We were able to see the cultural, archeological, environmental, gains that are really being made and our contribution back to the community on helping to create and return and have species survive here in such an important part of the culture and community,” said Gen. Flynn during a joint press conference after the tour.
“I was particularly impressed with the stewardship of Mauka that the Army has done there the past twenty years,” said Mayor Blangiardi when asked about the valley. “Everything I saw and heard spoke nothing but respect. For anybody who might possibly think the military would be indifferent to the smallest subtleties of taking care of a place, I would refute that.”