Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 18, 2001

Army resumes war games in Makua Valley

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

With two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters hovering above Makua Valley's green and golden hills, Schofield Barracks soldiers in battle gear yesterday sweated through the first training exercise in the valley in three years.

Schofield Barracks soldiers were back in the timber-lined trenches at the Army's Makua Valley training range yesterday, under an agreement that lets them resume exercises there.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Approximately 100 troops from the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry maneuvered up a grassy gulch, taking out an enemy observation post and simulating a bangalore torpedo blast through concertina wire before assaulting an entrenched position.

Neither the Army nor community members observing the exercise were completely satisfied with the highly publicized first day back.

Winds that were too strong just after 6:30 a.m. to meet fire safety standards prevented soldiers from conducting the blank-ammo training.

Tucked into a tight line, troops with M-4 rifles and big Squad Automatic Weapons, or SAWs, snaked their way through wood-lined trenches, pointing weapons at pop-up silhouettes they eventually will fire at.

Weather conditions and factors like moisture on the ground and in plants, windspeed and temperature will be monitored hourly so the blank-fire run-through can be completed as a precursor to using 105mm howitzers, 81mm and 60mm mortars, and helicopter-mounted 50-caliber machine guns to replicate the sounds of battle.

The blank-firing portion could be conducted today, followed by live-fire tomorrow, the Army said.

Col. Andrew Twomey, who commands the 2nd Brigade, likened yesterday's exercise to a "three-quarter speed football drill," but said it was an important part of preparedness.

"This is real bread and butter stuff you saw here today," he said. "It's building-block-foundation kind of stuff, but it's a foundation on which we build a lot of other skills."

Isaac Oclinaria offers a "Pule" in Hawaiian yesterday for the first training exercise in the valley in three years.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

A lot of training can be done with simulators, he said, but "what you can't train for (with simulators) is the physical stress caused by climbing that hill, getting into that trench and hearing the sound of artillery as it explodes."

Specialist Wayne Turley Jr., 21, said yesterday's drill seemed like regular practice.

"But when we do live-fire it will seem more realistic," said Turley, who has been through company-sized, combined arms exercises before with artillery, mortars and helicopters buzzing overhead.

"With all the noise, it can distract you, but training with all the noise helps us focus on what we're doing," Turley said.

The return to Makua follows the settlement Oct. 4 of a lawsuit brought by community group Malama Makua seeking a comprehensive environmental impact statement analysis of more than 50 years of military bombardment within the 4,190-acre Wai'anae Coast valley.

The agreement allows the 25th Infantry Division (Light) to conduct 37 company-sized exercises over the next three years. During that time, the Army will conduct an environmental impact statement.

Sparky Rodrigues, a board member of Malama Makua, said seeing soldiers return to training in the valley was "pretty depressing."

"No matter what the agreement (with the Army), there's still that feeling of loss here," he said. "Within the Hawaiian belief the land — the papa — is the female part of the environment. If you relate that to being your mother or grandmother, this is a form of violent abuse."