Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Battalion commander
continues family legacy

HILO >> National Guard Lt. Col. Kenneth Hara formally took command of the Hilo-based 2nd Battalion of the 299th Infantry this month.


Kenneth Hara: His "strict" father commanded the same unit 13 years until his retirement

The 38-year-old follows in the footsteps of his father, Henry, who commanded the unit for 13 years until his retirement in 1988.

Known among his colleagues as the Shogun, or Japanese military overlord, the elder Hara had pushed his older sons to join the service.

Although Kenneth, as the youngest of four boys, escaped the push, he made the choice on his own in 1984.

"When I was a senior in high school, I told him I wanted to join. His eyes lit up," Hara said.

From the age of 5, Hara had dreamed of flying helicopters. The Shogun insisted that he go into the infantry before flight school.

Finally, Hara got the flying experience he wanted. But after a year and half, an opportunity arose to go into the Guard full time, so he took the job, although it meant an end to flying.

Henry Hara served in the Guard for 37 years. "He was really strict," his son said.

His father used to teach, "If you're not going to be on time, be early."

The maxim applied to doing homework.

The father and son often went to Wailoa Pond to fish. Hara threw his line into the water, but his father would not let him tend it until he finished his homework on the banks of the pond.

The Guard is different from the regular Army because unit members train together for decades sometimes, unlike the Army, where personnel rotate every three years, Hara said.

The majority of the personnel in his unit probably look forward to serving in Iraq, he said.

"You're training for the Super Bowl for 20 or 30 years and then get to play in the game," he said. "I think they're excited. There's also apprehension."

For 40 years, military training emphasized the enemy is on one side and friendly troops on the other. Now the battlefield is "asymmetrical," meaning the enemy can be anywhere 360 degrees around troops, he said.

"Every time you leave the wire (the barbed wire around the base), you're in danger," he said.

Hara's troops are getting a boost in morale from the kind of Humvees that will be assigned to them.

In training, their Humvees might have nothing more than a sheet of fabric for a door. At Fort Bliss, Texas, they will receive armored versions of the vehicle.

When his troops learned that, "Their confidence level went up," he said.

Hara tried to explain all this to his 5-year-old daughter. "Some countries don't agree with us," he said.

His 15-year-old daughter, who lives with his ex-wife, made a worried call to her dad. But his father, the Shogun, expressed confidence. "They were trained to do this," he said.

Hawaii Army National Guard


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