Future of ‘critical’ military training area on Hawaii Island is subject of debate

The Army wants to retain up to 23,000 acres of state-owned land for continued training at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 5:08 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 10:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Army wants to retain up to 23,000 acres of state-owned land on Hawaii Island for continued training at the Pohakuloa Training Area.

But it’s facing increased scrutiny because of the Navy’s tainted water crisis at Red Hill on Oahu, and concerns over its treatment of the environment and use of ceded lands.

“I have problems with the United States military using our sacred lands to train their troops to go kill people throughout the world,” said Clarence Ku Ching, a Native Hawaiian activist.

Longtime opponents of military training at Pohakuloa say no more.

“If aunty gotta walk inside, I gotta stand by the gate, I am going to go it,” said Mary Maxine Kahaulelio, Hawaii island resident and Native Hawaiian activist.

“If I have to get arrested, I’m going to do it. Enough already.”

The military is collecting comments now on a draft environment impact statement.

Army leaders said options include retaining all 23,000 acres for military use, partial retention or losing its $1 lease for 65 years ― which expires in 2029.

“With that zero retention, there would no longer be any of the project management, natural resource programs that currently happens on those lands,” said Col. Dan Misigoy, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

The military says Pohakuloa is critical for weapons training as global threats loom and local agencies like the Hawaii Army National Guard and Army Reserve also use the land.

The Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce says it supports continued military training at Pohakuloa.

“Training saves lives and we owe to the 13,000 brave men and women who annually arrive at PTA to receive the instruction and training that they need,” said Miles Yoshioka, chamber executive officer.

Many expressed their opinions on the military training area over hours of emotional testimony Tuesday night.

“I belong to this land. That’s why they hate us, because they want everything we have. Our land, our fishes, our oceans, our water, our mauna. What else you folks want? What else?” said Mary Maxine Kahaulelio, a Hawaii Island resident.

In response, Misigoy said, “We’re following the process very deliberately and we’re very transparent and we welcome the community to comment throughout the entire EIS process.”

The public can submit comments on the issue until 11:59 p.m. June 7. Click here for details.

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