Hawaii’s Contributions To Military

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - August 12, 2009
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Amphibious assault training at Bellows
Amphibious assault training at Bellows

Are you conflicted about the Army’s use of Makua Valley on the Waianae Coast and the Air Force’s retention of Bellows in Waimanalo?

I think the issues aren’t clearly defined and we’re operating mainly on emotion.

About Makua. It’s been an Army training ground since before World War II, then trained troops to invade the Solomon Islands, and later for Vietnam and for ground and helicopter forces learning coordinated live-fire movement.

It’s sacred ground to some Hawaiians, has well-documented archeological features and endangered plants. The Army’s done great preservation work, but also set some fires and hasn’t explained how it will ever remove all the buried, unexploded ordnance.

The Army says it needs the valley to train the 25th Division troops from Schofield Barracks. The lava fields of Pohakuloa on the Big Island aren’t the same, and I agree with that.

But must the Army have it? The Navy told us it had to have Kahoolawe as a bombing and shelling island. It no longer does and seems to be surviving OK.

The total issue isn’t Hawaiian culture. Open land is so precious on Oahu. We should wish that the gorgeous expanse of Makua would be open and safe for future hikers.

But we keep squeezing the military while saying we also want it here as an economic entity as tourism declines. The 25th could move to Ft. Lewis in Washington State. That would devastate Wahiawa.

Now about Bellows. There’s no question that over the years we’ve given too much of our land and water for military use. Pacific Army, Pacific Fleet, Pacific Submarine Force, Pacific Marines, Pacific Air Force and Pacific Command.

Bellows is used by the Marines to practice amphibious landings. Necessary? Well, only because it keeps our Kaneohe brigade here rather than having to go to the West Coast and away from family for an extended time.

It’s also a military rest and recreation area with cabins. I approve of that as affordable compensation for people in uniform who cannot afford to stay in our hotels.

Also, local users totally trashed Bellows Beach on open weekends just as they trash our city and state parks and restrooms. It’s what we seem to do in Hawaii for reasons that escape me. So I can’t argue for a return of Bellows to civilian control until we can be good stewards of what we already have.

Down the line we have to confront this matter of wanting the military here as a economic spark plug versus the urgings of groups like Malama Makua and Earthjustice (legal arm of the Sierra Club) for the services to abandon training grounds.

I know that Earthjustice is applying the law, but I often sense it’s ideologically motivated by its Sierra Club connection in its aggressiveness.

Malama Makua makes a lot of noise, but remember that its chieftain, William Aila Jr., was barely a pip on the ballot last primary for governor. We must not confuse noise with substance.

But don’t write off Makua as a public preserve, either. That’s worthy of consideration. Same with Bellows.

We need some public consensus, and so far we don’t have it.

Some Honolulu architects of the American Institute of Architects are against an elevated guideway for our coming transit train. It means more concrete and viewplane degradation. But that’s life in the congested era, as Bangkok and other cities have discovered.

I’d prefer at-grade, too, as cheaper and quicker built. That’s not in the plan for good reason. We need the roadways for vehicles including buses, and at-grade light rail would be a major space competitor.

Nice to have isn’t the same as need to have or even can have.

Maybe you read the stories? Advertiser deputy editorial page editor Pati Poblete sued the paper and said editorial chief Jeanne MarianiBelding made the workplace unbearable with anti-Filipino comments.

Federal Judge Sam King dismissed the suit. His ruling didn’t deny that MarianiBelding may have made the comments attributed to her. He just didn’t feel they made the workplace unbearable.

Journalist/blogger Ian Lind published the documents in the suit the rest of us never saw. Very juicy reading.

Poblete claimed MarianiBelding said “Nestor Garcia (city councilman) has a brain the size of a pea”; “Rida Cabanilla (House member) is dumber than a doorknob”; A.J. Hagalao (a House candidate) “no, not him, he would just cater to his Filipino constituents.”

And that the Advertiser gave Poblete a $90,000 salary, $10,000 in moving expenses and a $10,000 signing bonus to come here and replace writer Jerry Burris.

Times do change. I came to work for the Advertiser in January 1963 at $120 a week, paid my way, no rent, no nothing.


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