Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade training at the U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) got a taste of the Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) experience at Ho’ilina Ranch during their off-duty hours on Saturday, February 11, 2023.
PTA and Ho’ilina Ranch established a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017, providing service members training at PTA an opportunity to gain insight and appreciation for local culture, history, and ranching traditions of Hawai’i.
“It’s incredibly important for service members to be part of the community, wherever they are stationed,” said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “Engagements such as this provide for a unique experience, help to develop an appreciation for the rich history and culture of this wonderful place where we are privileged to serve and to call home, all while building trust and relationships.”
Ranching and giving back to the community are some of ranch owner Korey Medeiros main passions. He opens up the ranch to many groups for educational and enrichment opportunities. “Ho’ilina” means “community coming together” and Medeiros says that they have one goal in mind, which is “to protect our resources that we have left.”
“I do this to bring awareness of ranching and land conservation,” said Medeiros. “I also enjoy working with people.” He works with many different organizations, such as the Youth Challenge Academy, women’s and men’s rehabilitation centers and other organizations. Medeiros also is a contractor for government agencies and ranchers helping with ranching and land management.
Medeiros grew up with a passion for the paniolo lifestyle and was in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H programs. “Ho’ilina Ranch is both of those programs combined and on steroids!” exclaimed Medeiros. He says he wants to “train and pass the torch to the younger generation so I can take my beautiful wife on vacation.” His wife Susan added that “Helping the Cattle live a healthy, healing lifestyle is very important to us.”
In addition to the Soldiers, about 40 family and friends, which included a veterinarian from Keauhou Veterinarian Hospital and a representative from the Hawai’i high school football team from Konaweana championship, participated in the February 11 Community Branding Day. There was a mixed bag of cattle processing and calf branding experience amongst the group.
“I appreciate this opportunity to give back the community, which is what the Army stands for,” said Sgt. 1st Class Makerdi Charlery. “This was an exciting experience…you see this in the movies and to get to do it today, it was amazing.” Charlery is an aircraft armament electrical supervisor with the 209th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), stationed at Wheeler Army Airfield, Oahu. He hails from Saint Lucia in the Caribbean Islands and moved to New York City prior to his enlistment.
Calf branding is not new to Spec. Graham Eastburn, who grew up on a farm in Garden Plains, Kansas, and participated in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H programs. “I came to do whatever they need me to help with,” said Eastburn. “I want to express my thanks to Ho’ilina Ranch for inviting us to their amazing ranch with their close family and friends from the community, it was a great experience." Eastburn is an intelligence analyst with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, also at Wheeler.
“Ho’ilina Ranch was an amazing host and we are so happy for the opportunity to be out there for their event,” said 1st Lt. Katie Szewczyk with the 209th ASB. “It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for many of us.” She added, “The partnership that PTA and Ho’ilina Ranch have together is, in my opinion, the definition of community outreach and bringing Hawai’i together.” Szewczyk hails from Youngstown, Ohio.
Partnering with Ho’ilina Ranch is one of many ways PTA stays actively engaged with the community. “We truly appreciate the long-standing partnership with Ho’ilina Ranch and other local non-profits to give back to the community, and provide experiences to learn about the wonderful Hawaiian culture,” said Cronin.