The Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce &Industry of Hawaii and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce fully support the U.S. military’s training mission at Pohakuloa Training Area. Our organizations represent over 1,000 member businesses, nonprofit organizations and professionals on Hawaii Island.
Properly training soldiers for their crucial deployments is a paramount responsibility for the U.S. Army. PTA provides an unparalleled venue to accomplish this goal and prepare our troops for the challenges they will face when sent to counter threats to American citizens and our national interests or to support our allies.
Training saves lives, and we owe it to these 13,000 brave men and women who annually arrive at PTA to receive instruction and training. As the current Garrison commander, Lt. Colonel “JR” Borce says, “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the training I received at PTA.”
Many of our local men and women in uniform, including Hawaii Army National Guard personnel, Army Reserves, local law enforcement officers and fire personnel are trained at PTA. Additionally, PTA Fire and Rescue team members are the first responders in the Saddle area, handling emergencies in the first critical minutes with fire trucks and Blackhawk helicopters at their disposal.
Currently, the Army is seeking to retain the use of the 23,000 acres of state-owned land when the current lease expires in 2029. The state-owned parcel is a narrow strip of land that provides access between the federally owned 777-acre cantonment area (offices, barracks and airstrip) and the 84,000-acre maneuver and impact area. The 23,000 acre parcel contains additional assets including artillery firing points, Cooper Air Strip for unmanned aircraft (drones), ammunition supply points, refueling points and water tanks.
The Army is strictly following all necessary procedures as it works on an environmental impact statement in accordance with the 1970 National Environment Policy Act and the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act. Our Chambers support PTA’s retention of the 23,000 acres of land leased to the U.S. Army by the State of Hawaii.
As part of its stewardship of the land, the Army manages the preservation of 26 endangered plants and animals, which includes propagating rare native plants and stocking a seed bank. The Army manages over 1,200 archaeological sites with site monitoring, site preservation, and surveying to find additional areas.
The U.S. Army Garrison’s budget for these efforts exceeds $10 million annually. Units visiting PTA are briefed on arrival and are required to adhere to natural and cultural restrictions on base and leave the area clean after each training exercise.
The military provides a financial boost of approximately $74 million annually to the local economy through military contracts with Hawaii Island-based companies, community services and support for nonprofits, and patronage of local businesses by soldiers and their families.
Currently, a local contractor is removing the 50-year-old Quonset huts in the cantonment area and replacing them with modern barracks. Of the 230 personnel who work at PTA year-round, only five are active-duty military members, while 225 are civilians who live in the neighboring communities.
PTA also participates with the local community at parades, festivals, school excursions, and even base tours. Each unit that trains at PTA is required to volunteer in the local community. Recent projects include restoring native fishponds, replacing the Waimea park playground and picking up trash in the Volcano area.
Our Chambers support the mission of Pohakuloa Training Area and recognize the services and benefits PTA and the U.S. military bring to our island, our state and our country.
Toby Taniguchi is president of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce. Ross Birch is president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce &Industry of Hawaii. Mark Leong is board chair of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.