Marines won't train in Waikane
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Marines dropped a bombshell of a different sort last night: They announced that after an "exhaustive" study of Waikane Valley, the decision has been made that training cannot safely be conducted there.
"We need to train our Marines in jungle maneuver skills, and I can't emphasize that enough," said Maj. Chris Hughes, a Marine spokes-man at Kane'ohe Bay. "We were all very accepting of this answer. We were disappointed, but we respect the facts, and the facts are, we can't safely do it."
The decision was made based on the types of ordnance previously used when first the Army and then the Marines used Waikane Valley, six miles north of Kane'ohe, for live-fire training from 1943 to 1976.
The training included the use of small arms, 3.5-inch rockets and medium artillery in a 1,061-acre parcel.
Hughes said the decision not to conduct blank-fire training in 187 remaining acres of the valley owned by the Marines was made after conducting an "exhaustive" staff study separate from an environmental assessment now in early draft form.
"Part of it was looking at available records for Waikane Valley, what ordnance was used, what was expended," Hughes said. "A big part of the problem is so much of that is incomplete (for) a lot of the training conducted in the '40s, '50s and '60s. But what we were able to piece together was based on the types of ordnance expended over this long period of time, that we could not safely train our people there."
Hughes said there are a variety of explosive devices.
"One thing that stood out to us was a HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round," he said.
Hughes said the announcement was made to the Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board last night, and experts would provide more details today.
"(Notifying the board) was very important to us in the Marine Corps," Hughes said. "We had worked with this group significantly on this over the last 15 or 16 months."
The Marine Corps in 2002 proposed a return to Waikane Valley for jungle training, having been there between 1953 and 1976. The Army in 1943 had obtained 2,000 acres that was called the Waiahole Training Area.
Land there had been leased from the Kamaka family, and the military was to clean up the property and return it once training ended. But military officials decided the cleanup was too costly and instead condemned the land, putting up a fence for public safety.
Last March 5, 150 community members attended a public meeting on the proposed training, and many spoke out against the plan, saying the land is sacred and that the Marines should clean it up.
The Marines had proposed training with an infantry company of up to 150 Marines practicing jungle familiarization, patrols and ambush.
John Morgan, the owner of Kualoa Ranch, had considered renting parts of the 4,000-acre spread for training. Hughes said the Marines still would be interested in such an offer.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com or 525-5459.