POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (Army News Service, March 9, 2009) - The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade recently invested about $1.5 million and thousands of man hours to complete a series of range improvement projects at Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii.
They were the largest improvement projects at Pohakuloa since 1955 when its barracks were constructed from World War II prefabricated Quonset huts and the airfield was built a year later.
The 25th CAB partnered with the Directorate of Public Works at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the PTA Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security on the big island to complete the projects.
Units of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) travel from Schofield Barracks on Oahu to train on the 51,000-acre impact area at Pohakuloa, which is more than 10 times the size of the one at Schofield Barracks
Improvements include the construction of a four-point Forward Arming and Re-fueling Point, or FARP, to quickly re-fuel and re-arm helicopters.
To improve the FARP, DPW graded and compacted the site, and 25th CAB Soldiers provided the heavy lifting and placing of hundreds of yards of specialized expeditionary airfield material, called AM2 matting.
The FARP is now located closer to the aerial gunnery range, making training more efficient by reducing delays caused by weather and decreasing re-fueling and re-arming time for aerial gunnery missions.
This change enabled the 25th CAB to complete gunnery five days quicker than previous rotations.
In addition, DPW teamed with aviation Soldiers to erect an Aviation Large Area Maintenance Shelter. The ALAMS is a large, tan "clamshell-type" structure that also contains hundreds of yards of AM2 matting.
During this and future PTA rotations, the ALAMS will be used to repair and maintain helicopters; a capability that officials said has been lacking at PTA.
Finally, at four separate ranges from November through January, the 25th CAB air lifted and emplaced 28 "EOD-T" targets.
The targets significantly increase the realism of training, CAB officials said, by simulating typical threat and non-threatening military vehicles for helicopter live-fire training.
In addition, Soldiers and DPTMS Range Maintenance built and emplaced 18 large target sets for the aerial door gunnery range that replicate urban built-up areas with pop-up targets to provide pilots and door gunners with target-effect feedback.
The nature and scope of the 25th CAB's work was unprecedented, according to Mr. Robert Misajon, future operations and plans officer, U.S. Army Garrison - Pohakuloa .
"The improvements are very significant, particularly the ALAM Shelter, FARP, and the durable and long-lasting hard targets because they can be used by any aviation element," said Misajon.
"On top of that, many of the hard targets were emplaced where they can be engaged by both ground and air elements, or serve as targets for air elements to engage while in support of ground forces. This allows commanders to develop their combined arms teams regardless of the branch of service," he explained.
"To date, no other unit has invested in PTA like the 25th CAB," he said. "What's most impressive about the 25th CAB, though, ithat they shouldered the load and made it all happen."
Col. Mike Lundy, commander, 25th CAB, said the various improvements truly showcase the unique value of partnering tactical units with the garrison to enable increased realism and rigor to improve home-station training in preparation for deployment.
"Our teaming effort with the garrison demonstrates the power that units can have to enhance out-of-date and legacy training areas to better replicate the current operational environment," said Lundy. "We were able to maximize U.S. Army Garrison's technical capabilities and equipment with our vision, training needs and manpower," said Lundy. "The result is a training environment that not only has lasting benefits for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, but for all other ground elements and branches of service that use PTA for training."
1st Lt. Curtis Gibbs, aircraft repairman Spc. Michael Bueno III, and truck driver Pvt.2 Joseph Daoud were among more than 100 CAB Soldiers involved in the project.
Gibbs was the officer-in-charge of the site improvements and supervised the FARP and ALAMS projects.
"The bottom line is that these projects were essential," said Gibbs. "We are going to continually use PTA for our brigade's training events. These improvements ensure that PTA remains a safe and effective location for training."
Gibbs also said that none of the work could have been accomplished without the teamwork of others. "I facilitated the missions, but much of the credit goes to our partners, most especially DPW."
DPW's project supervisor and heavy equipment operator, Derek Awong, explained that no less that 500 man-hours were dedicated to help the CAB at PTA.
"A lot of our guys are vets," said Awong. "The reason our guys were out there six days straight was basically because you guys are headed to Iraq," he continued. "So when I asked if they were willing to do it they said, 'No problem.' And they said no problem for one reason: They'll do anything to support our troops."
"The work was very physically demanding," said Daoud. "I was mostly involved in placing the matting which was challenging because the terrain wasn't always perfectly flat and we needed to adjust the ground," he continued. "But everyone worked together which is a result of good NCO's."
"We got to build something and see the fruits of our labor," said fellow Soldier Bueno. "You don't usually get to do something that's so important to the entire brigade. For me, that's what was most satisfying."