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Friday, January 19, 2001

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Makua Valley on the Waianae Coast, near Kaena Point.


Activists fight the Army's plan
to resume training
in the valley

Bullet Army addresses concerns
Bullet Makua Timeline
Bullet Soldiers study area, fire

By Gregg K. Kakesako

When Army Pvt. 1st Class Herbert Pililaau ran out of ammunition on a snowy ridge in Korea in 1951, he had to resort to defending himself with a trench knife and his fists.

Only 23 at the time, the Waianae resident ended up killing 40 Communist soldiers on Heartbreak Ridge before he was cut down. For that, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

For Army Col. Rodney Anderson, Pililaau's deeds are more than inspirational. They are a lesson and a warning that today's soldiers need to train constantly to prepare themselves for future Heartbreak Ridges.

Makua 'open house'

Two upcoming events:


The public is invited to the Army's Makua Valley training range from 10 a.m to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Four stations will be set up at the entrance to the training range on Farrington Highway near Kaena Point, where the Army will explain its fire and wildlife management program and its community helicopter support programs.

Visitors then will be bused to four other stations farther in the valley at one of the target areas to learn how training is conducted, what the Army does to protect cultural and historic sites and its use of other training facilities in the state.

Comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended.


A hearing to for public comment on plans to resume live-fire training in the valley will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Waianae District Park Multi-Purpose Center, 85-601 Farrington Hwy.

Standing last week in the middle of the 456-acre Army training range in Makua Valley that bears Pililaau's

name, Anderson, who commands the Tropic Lightning's artillery unit, observed, "Heartbreak Ridge has terrain very similar to what you see here.

"There's a lot of similarities in what he (Pililaau) did in Korea and what we seek to do here. He had to fight with bare knuckles when he ran out of ammunition. We train here to make every bullet count."

But the needs of the military and the desires of the Waianae Coast community are again at odds, as the Army looks to resume training in a valley rich in Hawaiian legend and lore.

Residents believe Makua's archaeological sites are significant, representing Hawaiian residential, religious and agricultural use prior to the arrival of Captain Cook.

In response to community opposition, all training at the Makua Military Reservation was suspended in September 1998. But the Army wants to resume modified live-fire operations in March. Its proposal was to be discussed at a community meeting on Jan. 17.

"Isn't it ironic that the meeting will be held on the (Jan. 17) anniversary of the overthrow of the queen (Liliuokalani)," said A. Frenchy DeSoto, former Office of Hawaiians trustee and long-time Waianae Coast activist.

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Army cultural resources manager Laurie Lucking
points out an old Hawaiian site in Makua Valley.

That revelation, however, led the Army last week to reschedule the hearing to a larger venue at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 (at the Waianae District Park Multi-Purpose Center, 85-601 Farrington Hwy.), since a large crowd is anticipated.

The Army also scheduled an open house at the training range on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., to try to give a better picture on why it needs Makua. Army leaders plan to conduct demonstrations and explain each phase of training, including precautions to protect the environment and cultural and historic sites.

Environmental concerns, demands to return the valley to local control, and protection of cultural resources have plagued the military, which for decades has argued that continued training in Makua is essential to maintaining a sizable presence in the islands.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye has warned that without Makua, the military may withdraw from the islands because it would be too expensive to train troops off Oahu.

Such a move would have a ripple effect on Hawaii's fragile economy, where military spending ranks third. Inouye predicted that if the 25th Infantry Division left Oahu, "Wahiawa would become a ghost town."

The military is proposing to reduce the number of soldiers and Marines who can train in the valley at one time. Missiles and tracer bullets also no longer would be allowed under a proposal pending before Maj. Gen. James Dubik, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division.

Environmental concerns

DeSoto, who, with former House Speaker and ousted Bishop Estate Trustee Henry Peters and other community leaders formed an alliance with the military decades ago, said she is "disappointed" in the way the Army has been arguing for the resumption of training.

She wants the Army to be required to do an environmental impact statement, which is more thorough than an environmental assessment.

"They have been using the valley for 55 years. You can't tell me there hasn't been any impact. They should do the study and prove me wrong. That's all I ask; prove me wrong."

The Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of Malama Makua, a Leeward Coast activist group, has gone to court demanding the Army conduct an environmental impact statement. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26 in federal court.

However, Dubik is expected to make a decision on resuming training shortly after Jan. 30, the deadline for public comment on the Army's environmental assessment, which was released Dec. 14.

Cultural sites 'damaged'

Although the Army maintains modified training will have "no significant impact," Earthjustice attorney John Fritschie said an environmental impact statement would require the Army to take a harder look at the alternatives. "We feel live-fire assault training at Schofield Barracks is feasible."

But Brig. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, 25th Infantry Division commander, said the environmental assessment rejected the Schofield proposal because it would be too expensive to build a range there.

Fritschie also said the Army's current study does not adequately address disposal of hazardous waste material or the preservation of cultural sites.

"Although the sites have been identified, live ordnance have been found nearby," he said. "Many of them have been damaged and there is nothing to prevent future damage from occurring.

"No barriers have been created and when shooting occurs, bullets will go astray and damage will be done."

An earlier lawsuit, filed by Malama Makua three years ago, ended in a settlement in 1999 in which the Army was to seek ways to lessen the impact of the training on the valley. But many Waianae residents then still wanted the Army to do a more detailed environmental impact statement.

A total of 41 historical and cultural sites and more than 150 historical features in Makua have been identified and mapped, said Laurie Lucking, cultural resources manager for the 25th Division and U.S. Army Hawaii.

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Laurie Lucking, cultural resources manager for the
25th Division, and Col. Rodney Anderson view
the Makua Valley military reservation.

"They are all treated equally," she said, even though only one -- the Ukanipo Heiau -- is on the National Historic Register.

Army officials said that since 1992 none of the historical and cultural sites are in the area where soldiers are allowed to fire their rifles, shoot off mortar rounds or train with long-range 105 mm howitzer cannons.

The soldiers use only about one-tenth of the 4,190 acres the Army leases. Seventeen of the historical sites are located at the southern and northern edge of the training area. The Army trims the grass only in the maneuver area to protect against accidental fires. High, untrimmed grass marks "hazard areas" -- zones that are off-limits to any training because of the presence of a cultural or historical site.

Additionally, targets are positioned so soldiers are never shooting toward an area identified as having historical or cultural importance, Lucking said.

She said that cattle ranching during the 1800s was more destructive to the Makua environment than anything the Army has done since creating the Makua Military Reservation in 1943.

"Introduction of alien species, such as guinea grass for feeding, created bigger problems," she said.

"I'm not anti-military," DeSoto insisted. "We appreciate what they do with their helicopters that take our injured people to the hospital ...

"I think the community is just kind of angry at the way they are doing things now. It's the attitude -- like calling out so many policemen to the last hearing. I don't know what they were expecting."

Army addresses
concerns about use

THE Army decided against doing an expensive and time-consuming environmental impact statement on its use of Makua Valley, because it had already worked with government and community groups to ensure military training would not harm the environment or any of the 41 cultural and historic sites and the more than 150 historical features there.

Conducting an environmental impact statement could have suspended training for up to five years.

Instead, the Army "took the extra step to develop a draft environmental assessment and put that document out for public comment in September," said Army spokesman Peter Yuh. "Under federal provisions, there is no requirement to release a draft environmental assessment for public review."

The Army received 136 comments on the draft, which have been included in a final environmental assessment with the Army's responses.

The Army said after it suspended training at Makua in 1998, it met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and developed a fire management plan to protect endangered species in the area.

It also began working with the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and representatives of the Waianae community to protect and manage the valley's cultural resources.

Among the concerns raised and the Army's responses to them:

Bullet Allow community access to cultural resources in Makua: The Army says it has worked for more than two years to develop a plan for public access to the the federally-recognized Ukanipo Heiau, located in a buffer zone outside the main training area. However, the presence of unexploded ordnance throughout the valley makes it unsafe for unrestricted public access.

Bullet Return Makua and begin cleaning it up: "Eventual disposition of Makua is not an appropriate subject to be addressed by the supplemental environmental assessment," the Army said. "The Army has both a need and a legal right to use the land at Makua."

Bullet Stop the bombing: The Army does not propose to conduct any bombing.

Bullet Resumption of training may harm or threaten endangered species: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the resumption of limited training -- incorporating training restrictions, a fire management plan and a species stabilization plan -- will not jeopardize 33 endangered plants and animals.

Bullet Effects of past 60 years of military use: The environmental assessment is not meant to document the impact of past usage.

Among the alternatives proposed and the Army's reasons for rejecting them:

Bullet No military training in Makua: Does not meet the purpose and needs of the military.

Bullet Use Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island: Too expensive and would result in a decline in readiness.

Bullet Train on the mainland: More expensive than Pohakuloa alternative.

Bullet Status quo allowing missiles and tracer bullets: Unacceptably high risk of harm to the environment.

Bullet Conduct non-fire training: Not economically justifiable to keep Makua open just for this type of training.

Bullet Construct another facility on Oahu: Other installations unsuitable because of terrain restrictions, availability of land, ownership problems.

Gregg K. Kakesako, Star-Bulletin

Makua timeline

Makua Military Reservation is 38 miles northwest of Honolulu, near Kaena Point, and has been under Army jurisdiction since 1943.

Bullet 1920s: Three parcels on upper valley floor used for howitzer emplacements

Bullet 1869-1941: Makua Valley leased to cattle ranches

Bullet 1941: Entire Makua-Kaena Point area used for security and training operations after the Pearl Harbor attack

Bullet 1942-1943: Army confiscates 6,600 acres

Bullet 1964: Army returns nearly 2,400 acres to the state. It now owns 170 acres, holds 1.64 acres by license, leases 782 acres from the state and uses 3,236 acres of ceded land

Bullet 1998: Several wildfires started by soldiers using live ammunition force the Army to suspend training in September so it can work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to study the impact of the fires on 33 rare plants and animals in the valley. There have been 270 fires over the past 12 years, many started by soldiers in training.

Bullet 2029: Army's lease of 4,190 acres expires

Source: U.S. Army

Maj. Gen. James Dubik

Soldiers study area,
then fire

Gregg K. Kakesako

UNTIL 1998, 80 percent of the live ammunition training for Kaneohe Marines, Schofield Barracks soldiers and Hawaii Army National Guard infantrymen took place in Makua Valley.

The Army maintains Makua is the only place on Oahu where company-size units of 150 soldiers can practice infantry tactics using live ammunition.

In defending military use of Makua, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye notes that the Navy lost Kahoolawe for target practice years ago and the Marines can now only use "a small sliver of a beach" at Bellows Air Force Station.

The only other area in the state available is the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area, which is "expensive and time consuming for the Army to transport troops there," Inouye said.

Without Makua, the Army's readiness has been handicapped, said Maj. Gen. James Dubik, 25th Division commander. Schofield Barracks now can accommodate only smaller squad and platoon-level training, he said.

The Army says the 25th Division's 18 infantry companies are required to use Makua at least four times a year, which amounts to 360 days annually.

Tom Husemann, Makua Range operations supervisor, said the Army needs such maneuver training areas so "the soldiers become better marksmen. The better marksmen they are, the less ammunition they will waste."

By the time the soldiers walk the mile-long course, they are pretty much tuckered out, but they know what to expect," he said.

Before they begin any type of training in the valley, leaders are required to study the terrain "so they know where they can shoot their mortars or their small arms," Husemann said.

"We can't put any white lines in the field (to mark off archaeological sites), so they have to study the terrain. Then all the soldiers walk the whole area before a single bullet is fired."

But before any live ammunition is used on the range during a typical five-day exercise, the soldiers go through the course again, firing only blank ammunition.

On the day that actual bullets are used, the soldiers move east into the middle of the range with three platoons of 27 to 30 men. Their objectives are the Fox, Coyote and Deer training areas, where remote-controlled pop-up silhouette targets are located.

The first squad to see the targets pop up on Fox fire their rifles, trying to knock down the silhouettes. Upon completion, the platoon leader regroups, takes an inventory of his unit's ammunition, checks to see if anyone is hurt and waits for orders from his company commander to "take out" Coyote.

The exercise is repeated until the platoon captures the last objective, Deer, which consists of a series of trenches, bunkers and a minefield or barbed wire obstacle.

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