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Live-fire military training to resume at end of August


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POSTED: Saturday, July 18, 2009

Despite threats of lawsuits from Hawaiian activists, the Army plans to resume training using live ammunition in Makua Military Reservation on Aug. 31.

The Army stopped live-fire training in 2004 pending completion of an environmental impact statement on the training. It has been doing limited training since then with blank ammunition.

Yesterday the Army took the news media and several Hawaii community leaders by Chinook helicopter from Fort Shafter to the floor of the 4,190-acre valley, where Col. Matthew Margotta, commander of U.S. Army Hawaii, discussed the Army's plans.

Margotta said he doubted that the Army would conduct the number of live-fire exercises allowed under the final environmental impact statement, which said the Army could conduct up to 32 live-fire exercises involving a company of up to 200 soldiers and 150 convoy exercises annually.

;[Preview]  Makua's Live Fire To Resume
 

The U.S. Army says it will scale back its live fire exercises in Makua Valley.

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The maximum number was set because there are 23 companies of soldiers and nine companies of Marines assigned to Hawaii that are required to perform these types of weeklong trainings each year.

“;Makua is the only area in Hawaii that provides that capability,”; said Margotta.

He said additional off-island training is expensive and creates hardships on military families.

Referring to the experiences of soldiers assigned to 25th Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which returned in February after 15 months in Iraq, Margotta said besides several trips to the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area, the brigade had to spend an additional six weeks at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in Southern California because it was prohibited from training at Makua.

               

     

 

MAKUA MILITARY RESERVATION

        » Location: 38 miles northwest of Honolulu
       

» Primary use: Only training site on Oahu for company of up to 200 soldiers or Marines where infantry, aviation, artillery, engineer and other units can exercise together using live ammunition

       

» Acreage: 4,195 acres

       

» 3,237 acres—Ceded lands

       

» 782 acres—Leased from State of Hawaii; lease of the land makai of Farrington Highway expires 2029

       

» 170 acres—Fee

       

» 1.64 acres—Used for easement

       

» 5 acres—Licensed to other parties

       

Source: U.S. Army

       

 

       

In the future, the military also will not be using ammunition like tracer bullets and rockets, which were major causes of brush fires that initiated lawsuits from Malama Makua a decade ago.

Margotta added that the Army realizes that Makua is a “;special place”; and rich in cultural and historical artifacts.

To date, Army historians have identified 121 archaeological sites in the valley, including heiau, house platforms, agricultural terraces, enclosures and walls. There are also more than 40 endangered plants and animals that live there, mainly on the ridges of the Waianae Range.

Laurie Lucking, U.S. Army Hawaii cultural resource manager, said “;there is a continuous effort to find more sites so they can be identified.”;

These areas are marked with stakes with yellow and red bands, and some are enclosed with concertina wire, she added.

Kaleo Patterson, a Waianae resident, recalled that he was part of the protest movement before Malama Makua was formed, and was “;encouraged”; by the efforts by the Army “;to engage with the community.”;

Christopher Dawson, head of the Dawson Group who was born on Niihau, said his first visit to Makua left him with “;chicken skin”; thinking of his friend, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe and his brother Nakoa Hoe, who both trained in Makua Valley. Nainoa Hoe was killed in Iraq.

“;I have a hard time reconciling the thoughts that one day he is surfing, swimming and fishing in that bay,”; Dawson said pointing to ocean fronting the gates to the Waianae Coast military training area, “;and then he is killed in Iraq.”;

               

     

 

HISTORY

        1920-1940s

        » Coastal gun emplacements placed in back of Makua.

        » Large military maneuvers on Waianae Coast with landings at Makua Beach.

        » Makua Valley used as live-fire range.
       

1950s-1960s
        »
        U.S. acquires 170 acres through purchase or condemnation.
        » Ceded lands at Makua returned to Hawaii upon statehood.
        » President Lyndon Johnson signs executive order setting aside Makua for military use.
        » State leases 782 acres makai of Farrington Highway to Army for 65 years with lease expiring in 2029.

       

1986
        »

       

Army begins company live-fire training with up to 200 soldiers.

       

1998
        » Malama Makua sues the Army, arguing federal environmental law required the Army to complete an environmental study before it could continue to use the valley for live-fire training.

       

2004
        » Army suspends live-fire training, pending completion of environmental impact statement. Limited training with blank ammunition allowed.

       

Source: U.S. Army