SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawai'i – The U.S. Army Garrison Hawai’i (USAG-HI) mission is to provide strategic support for training to enable readiness. Integral to this, is the protection of cultural heritage. Central to this initiative is the Cultural Resources Section of the Directorate of Public Works, which works diligently to safeguard the islands' rich history from the effects of military operations.
The USAG-HI Cultural Resources Section is instrumental in striking a balance between military activities and cultural preservation. Their responsibilities include identifying and managing historic properties, mitigating adverse effects, and ensuring legal compliance. Given the wide range of military activities in Hawai’i, from training to utility management, their role is indispensable.
A top priority is the protection and monitoring of archaeological sites within training areas, as these sites are vulnerable during military exercises. The team has set rigorous guidelines which include adhering to specified zones and promptly reporting any discovered artifacts or remains. However, it's important to note that while the Cultural Team observes these practices, they did not establish the guidelines.
The potential ramifications on the mission are substantial. Maintenance problems can dampen personnel morale, while damage to cultural resources can strain community relations and readiness. Especially vulnerable are cultural resources in training areas, which can lead to fragmentation and diminished training possibilities. Effective cultural resource management is crucial to prevent negative impacts on people, training, and infrastructure, ensuring overall mission readiness.
Engaging in consultation is pivotal to the team's strategy. They work hand in hand with Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs) and State agencies to evaluate impacts and make well-informed decisions. This essential collaboration comes with its challenges, such as reconciling varying preservation demands and diverse viewpoints.
Recently, the Cultural Resources program supported a Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) Rotation event with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, Encino CA. The CR team escorted 425th CA to a protected cultural site to undertake detailed documentation in line with the training objectives.
"Our collaboration with 425th CA BN opened a novel avenue for us to facilitate training activities. Escorting these specialists to established cultural sites allows us to protect cultural properties and share our extensive knowledge and experience. As we guide 425th CA BN to these sites, we can observe their techniques, offer feedback, or potentially instruct them on best practices in future training missions. The direction of such training remains flexible and hinges on a unit's experience and what they aim to derive from our expertise," remarked Dr. Brian Padgett, a prominent member of the USAG-HI Cultural Resources Section.
Dr. Padgett further highlighted the challenges they face: "The Army seeks authentic training experiences, but Hawaii's cultural backdrop poses hurdles. We educate leaders and commanders on the necessity to respect and avoid culturally significant sites through tangible tools like Siebert stakes – reflective markers soldiers must heed at all times – and cultural awareness training."
The team's approach is rooted in practicality. They consistently monitor areas after training to detect any breaches promptly and seek methods to simplify compliance with laws and regulations.
In summary, their unwavering dedication to practical solutions and vigilant oversight is vital in preserving Hawai’i's heritage while accommodating the Army's training requirements. The USAG-HI Cultural Resources Section remains a steadfast protector of Hawaii's heritage, ensuring its conservation for the enrichment of future generations.