SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – With the devastating wildland fires that occurred in Maui, as a precursor, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii hosted key stakeholders from the State of Hawaii, local authorities, and community members Oct. 24, 2023 for an orientation ride in a collaborative effort to ensure understanding of the procedures required to open Kolekole Pass Road in the event of an emergency. The vital roadway, the only route crossing the Waianae Mountain range between the Waianae coast and central plain of Oahu, connects Schofield Barracks and the Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) Lualualei Annex in Nanakuli.
The familiarization event aimed to inform and educate stakeholders with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place to open Kolekole Pass in the event of an extraordinary natural or man-made emergency, as outlined in the MOU between Navy Region Hawaii, JBPHH, U.S. Army Hawaii, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI EMA), and Department of Emergency Management, and City and County of Honolulu, dated September 27, 2022.
“We want to listen, hear your concerns firsthand, if there are any, and hear your thoughts so we can improve this process,” said U.S. Army Col. R.J. Garcia, 25th Infantry Division Deputy Commander - Support, 25th Infantry Division. “This is more than just opening roads to let people drive through - it is an active management of emergency cases that we [U.S. Army] would be helping with.”
The highlights of the event included an informative brief to identify the chain of authority required to open the gates and a guided riding tour of the pass to assess road conditions and to evaluate the risks associated with moving local civilian vehicles on the roadway.
Kolekole Pass has historically been off-limits to civilian traffic due to security measures, U.S. Government-mandated explosives safety rules, and general safety concerns related to falling rocks and road conditions in its upper elevation sections. Additionally, community leaders were told that the road crosses a surface danger zone for ranges on Schofield Barracks, which will cause the shutdown of the range during its use.
The event shined a spotlight on the importance of the partnership between the City & County of Honolulu, State of Hawaii, U.S. Navy Region Hawaii and U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii in conducting periodic checks, coordination, and maintenance to ensure safe access along the route. The existing MOU allows the installation commander to permit HI EMA, City, and County of Honolulu emergency vehicles weighing less than 36 tons to transit between JBPHH Lualualei Annex and Schofield Barracks in times of crisis.
“We appreciate the opportunity to come together with community members, elected officials, transportation experts, and our partners in the Navy to examine the potential use of Kolekole Pass as an evacuation route,” said U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Commander Col. Steve McGunegle.
The event informed local officials and amplified the military’s commitment to the community to ensure emergency preparedness despite the inherent challenges posed by Kolekole Pass and magnified all attendees’ dedication and commitment to the safety and readiness of Oahu.