Isle troops heading backBy Gregg K. Kakesako
More than 2,000 Hawaii Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers will be back this weekend after spending nearly a month in Louisiana and Alaska undergoing military training.
The 2,000 citizen soldiers, who traveled to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana, joined 4,000 Army National Guard soldiers from 22 other states.
The center at Fort Polk is the Army's premier training center for U.S. Army light infantry units. Earlier this year, the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks sent a brigade for training in peacekeeping operations such as those being carried out in Kosovo and Bosnia.
It was the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade's first major overseas deployment since it trained in South Korea in 1990. Joining the brigade were soldiers of the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion.
The brigade, under the command of Brig. Gen. Dennis Kamimura, celebrated the end of training with a luau yesterday.
"There was kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon and poi flown in," said Pvt. Joshua Mercado, 22.
Mercado, a radio telephone operator with the brigade's headquarters company, said the Hawaii soldiers "held their own against the opfor (opposing forces). The whole exercise was to get us battle ready."
The only casualties reported by the brigade, Mercado said, were mainly due to the high heat and high humidity, lot of sprains and bug bites.
"The bug bites look like chicken pox," said Mercado, who delivers freight for Maikai Air Express, "and there were a lot of poison oak and poison ivy cases."
Also returning this weekend are seven Pacific Army reservists, members of the 411th Engineer Battalion, who traveled to Annette Island, Alaska, helping to build a road.
The 14-mile road links the Tsimpshian Indian village of Metlakatla in southeast Alaska with a propsed ferry site on the north end of the island.
Staff Sgt. David Moku, of Waiamanalo, said the project had "a rocky start, but after settling in and getting oriented ... it's on a smooth road."