National Guard Soldiers Ready To Clean Maui

KALAELOA (KHNL) -- Soldiers make the final inspections on two dozen pieces of heavy equipment before it's all loaded onto the Superferry, and sails to Maui on Monday.

Lt. Colonel Moses Kaoiwi anticipates, "There's a lot of major work that needs to be done."

The story made national headlines in early December after high winds and heavy rains pummeled the state. Maui took the brunt, with over 100 properties damaged. But soldiers say they're not intimidated.

Kaoiwi says, "My soldiers are well prepared. They've done this before at the Kaloko Dam and Big Island earthquake. We've sent soldiers to work on disaster relief."

It's not only dirty, but it's dangerous work. Disaster areas are full of hazards.

"It's a lot of labor intensive work, making sure everyone stays safe. When you're dealing with situations like this, there is danger - maybe debris is close to utility poles, or if it's run off the road, maybe the bridge is collapsed," Kaoiwi explained.

But at the end of a long day, soldiers say it's rewarding work.

"We joined to support the community and provide this type of response when we have incidents like this," said Kaoiwi.

The Hawaii National Guard is participating in a joint operation with the County of Maui for debris removal. A 14-member unit that consisted of Maui-based Guardsmen was dispatched to begin efforts on Polipoli Road in Kula in late December.

After an initial review of 12 sites was conducted by the National Guard, personnel began clearing debris in the Kula area. A more in-depth review of additional storm damaged locations that have been reported to the County's Civil Defense Agency was completed on January 4.

These locations were self-reported by residents to the County Civil Defense Agency and are considered to have sustained considerable damage and contain a large amount of debris. Teams consisting of personnel from the County, State and National Guard also conducted on-site visits to areas seriously impacted and requiring debris removal work.

On Monday, January 7, the National Guard will transport heavy equipment from Oahu to Maui to assist in debris removal operations. The estimated 27 pieces of heavy military engineer equipment will include a Bulldozer, Bobcat mini-loaders, dump trucks, and SEEs (mini-excavators).

On January 8, 22 Oahu-based National Guard personnel will join 49 Maui Guardsmen to begin extensive debris removal work.