Schofield Barracks, Hawaii -- Students and faculty waited patiently with leis and warm welcomes at the front entrance of the Hale Kula Elementary School. The students were excited about the distinguished visitor. Then the car pulled up and out stepped U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, the first female Senator of Hawaii, on her first official visit to the school.
Hale Kula Elementary School principal Jan Iwase greeted Hirono as she stepped out of her vehicle at the school and presented her with a Kukui Nut lei.
"This was some welcome," said Hirono.
Hirono, a senator of Hawaii, toured Schofield Barracks during a recent visit to Hawaii April 3, 2013. During her visit to the post, the senator toured the Hale Kula Elementary School, the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters and the Warrior Transition Center.
"The Senator asked to visit the Hale Kula as part of her visit," said Iwase. "The Senator is on the Armed Forces Committee, and wanted to see our school prior to the construction project which is funded by a Department of Defense grant and State grant," she said.
The Kale Hula was granted over $25 million from the DoD, and over $6 million from the State of Hawaii to upgrade the school, which was first built over 50 years ago. The grant will help the school make critical facility improvements in order to address student overcrowding.
The renovations will include removal of titles and new flooring, interior and exterior painting, installation of ceiling fans and replacement furniture. The main costs will be for a new library and media center, new admin center, new covered play court and new classroom buildings, and upgrading current classrooms to meet with standards set forth by the Department of Defense. The renovations are planned to start this summer and take a few years to complete.
"We are honored to have Senator Hirono visit Hale Kula School," said Iwase.
Hirono serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Veteran's Affairs Committee and Judiciary Committee. She is also a member of three subcommittees, Personnel, Readiness and Management Support.
Hirono said she is concerned about the health of the force and concerned with suicide rates and sexual assault in the military.
Following the school tour, the senator met with the command team of the 25th Infantry Division for a briefing before heading to have lunch with Soldiers.
Tropic Lightning Soldiers from the ranks of staff sergeants to captains met with the senator at the Warrior Inn dining facility for an open discussion about various topics of how recent budget cuts have effected the training requirements and overall welfare and morale of their units.
Some of the concerns were about lack of money for supplies, such as fuel and ammunition for training. One concern shared by many of the Soldiers was the recent reinstatement of the tuition assistance program that had been cut from the Army, but still did not have funds allocated for Soldiers to enroll back in classes.
Hirono was one of the main supporters for the amendment for protecting the tuition assistant program for the military. "I am very pleased to see this important bill that protects tuition assistance for our brave service members has passed both the House and the Senate," said Hirono.
"I understand all the concerns and worries of family members and service members," she said. Hirono mentioned it is going to be a long and hard process, but is dedicated to helping the military and their families. "We have to work together on this, we will get through it."
After having lunch with the Soldiers, the senator had the opportunity to visit the Warrior Transition Center, where she was able to meet the staff and Soldiers. The senator toured the WTC and spoke with the staff about how they provide help for service members. The WTC helps Soldiers prepare for transition out of the Army, whether it is for educational purposes or seeking additional medical help.
During her tour, she met with six Soldiers to learn about their experience at the WTC. All the Soldiers shared their stoires and how the staff had helped them get into college and work towards a degree before they left the military service.
Hirono said it was a good tour of Schofield Barracks and wants to work with the 25th Infantry Division to promote the health, well-being, and quality of life for Soldiers and military families.