POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii -The commander for the Army Environmental Command (AEC) gained first-hand knowledge of the work being done by natural and cultural resource programs at Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), Jan. 8.

Col. Maria Gervais, commander, AEC, monitors the Army's environmental programs and is a key advisor to its environmental challenges.

"As the commander of the Army Environmental Command it is important for me to understand the environmental challenges our installations are facing, so I can determine how my command can best help," said Gervais. "I also wanted to observe what PTA environmental personnel are doing to protect the environment and ensure Soldier readiness so that Soldiers can train here.

"It is very important for me to understand how environmental work is done here," she continued, "why it is done and to determine where the Army Environmental Command can help PTA in the mission execution of both training Soldiers and continuing to be good stewards of the environment."

Gervais toured the PTA interpretive garden and propagation facility after receiving a command brief by Lt. Col. Warline Richardson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-PTA; Bill Godby, PTA archaeologist and cultural resources program manager; and Steve Evans, PTA biologist and natural resources program manager.

Later, Gervais and six AEC staff members went to the western edge of the installation, known as the western fuel break, where they witnessed a fencing demonstration, viewed a weed control buffer area for the Mauna Kea Pamakani plant, and watched an emergency exclosure and planned fence unit for the Hawaiian Prickle Leaf plants. The group also visited Training Area 5 where Gervais and AEC staff toured ancient Hawaiian site.

"The natural and cultural resources personnel at PTA are doing what they can to protect the environment in order to allow the Army and the other services to train at this location," Gervais said. "Without the work that they do, the Army and the other services would not be able to train because we would not meet our obligations in accordance with wildlife regulations, historic preservation laws and the endangered species act."

Natural and cultural resources issues were discussed throughout the day. Before her visit to PTA, Gervais visited and met with various officials on Oahu, including Makua Military Reservation, U.S. Forest and Wildlife Services and the Corps of Engineers Honolulu District.

Gervais wrapped up her visit on the Big Island and took note of the significance of PTA's exceptional natural and cultural resource program efforts.

"My visit to PTA was a great experience. In fact, my visit on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and the Big Island was very important," Gervais said. "I came here because PTA is not like the island of Oahu. The challenges on Oahu are completely different from PTA.

"I've learned a lot in terms of the complexities, challenges and the dynamics that PTA has to understand and has to implement and take into consideration for execution," she said. "I will tell you that PTA environmental personnel's job is extremely important, and they are leading the way in terms of Army work, and also within Hawaii, of protecting the environment and supporting Soldier training."