It takes a village to support the thousands of troops that come to U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA), Island of Hawai’i, to conduct their readiness training. PTA is the Pacific’s Premier Training Center with 133,000 acres providing critical training space for all branches of the military in the Indo-Pacific arena. It is a second home to the 25th Infantry Division Soldiers and Marines stationed on Oahu.
October and November were exceptionally busy months for PTA supporting the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) exercise and the 11th Airborne Division “Arctic Aloha” Deployment Exercise. JPMRC was conducted on Oahu and the Big Island with more than 5,000 U.S. forces training with allies such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. PTA supported almost 2,000 of these troops. Arctic Aloha was an Army-Air Force exercise with almost 600 paratroopers and support personnel from Alaska and Hawai’i. PTA provided a unique terrain and opportunity to demonstrate ability to project forces throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Supporting year-round military training is the village of PTA consisting of a small corps of Department of Army Civilians, tenant organizations, contractors, and cooperators that directly and indirectly support training and manage all the programs at PTA.
“There are only three military personnel assigned to PTA, so my command team and I rely heavily on the dedicated staff of civilians for daily operations,” said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Tim Alvarado. “During large training exercise such as JPMRC, everyone is working at full throttle to ensure training is conducted safely and successfully.”
A lot of preparation is required prior to a unit’s arrival such as identifying feasible areas for specific training requirements, making sure facilities are clean, providing public notices on convoy movements and noise advisories, to name but a few. Then there are the extensive recovery operations when units depart and the village must take care of inspections, repairs, etc.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more professional group of individuals to work with,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Reid, HHC 65th Brigade Engineer Battalion. He was part of the group that managed the “mayor cell” that handled all coordination between JPMRC and the installation.
The three main sections that directly support troops are Base Operations (OPS), Range Operations and the Bradshaw Army Airfield.
Base Operations has two Army Civilians and a lone Marine working with units before, during and after training exercises. They conduct pre-deployment site surveys with units, identify unit responsibilities and inform them of installation services, coordinates with the installation staff to fulfill unit requirements, assigns billeting and facilities, and much more. When training is complete, Base OPS conducts facility inspections and works with the unit leaders to rectify issues such as trash, missing items, and damages.
Range OPS also works with units pre- and post-training exercises. They have an important role in monitoring and controlling access and movements in training areas to ensure the safety of everyone that is out and about. This is especially important when there is public hunting at PTA and at adjacent State hunting areas. The Police Department’s game warden plays a critical role too when there is hunting.
Bradshaw Army Airfield (BAAF) coordinates all military aircrafts movements, as well as monitor civilian air traffic as a certified Federal Aviation Administration facility. There was lots of staff overtime and immense coordination to monitor more than 60 military aircrafts during JMPRC conducting troop insertions, equipment and supply drops and simulated air support missions. Artic Aloha had 11 U.S. Air Force C-17s, a large transport aircraft, that were visible throughout Hawai’i Island.
For the first-time ever, the BAAF team orchestrated multiple C-17’s and C-130’s landing in both directions of the runway and helped guide nighttime landings during JPMRC. “I am incredibly proud of the BAAF team for their willingness to work long hours and many days to get the job done,” said Blake Doll, the BAAF Air Traffic Control Chief. Another first was the parking of multiple C-17’s and C-130’s on the parking aprons at the same time. Doll is an Army veteran and has been working at PTA for 25 years. “We’re an extended family here,” said Doll. “We’re a very small post which means we rely more on each section to come together for mission accomplishment.” He added that they get to see “pretty much every aircraft in the U.S. military’s inventory at BAAF.
This was possible due to the hard work of the Public Works team to prepare many areas, such as the airfield and Keamuku Maneuver Area, to enable the military to conduct the training they require. Their workload also increased with many repair and trouble-shooting work orders during the influx of troops during JPMRC.
The cultural and natural resources sections work with Base and Range OPS, and troops to ensure training does not disturb areas with environmental and cultural preservation and activities. They brief units on what to watch out for such as caves and wildlife. The Garrison Public Affairs Office shared footage by public affairs Soldiers to provide public with glimpse of training activities and answered a lot of public queries on convoys and training noise and activities.
“It can be a little harsh out here sometimes, but it can also be really gorgeous as well with all the wildlife,” said Range Maintenance Mechanic Peter Sepulveda with Range OPS. He enjoys the responsibility to ensure the equipment in the firing ranges are operational. Sepulveda is a Navy veteran and has been working at PTA for three years.
Others who support troops at PTA are the Network Enterprise Center for troop communication capabilities, the Post Exchange and the Barber Shop, and the commercial food truck providing a little reprieve from MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat).
“We greatly appreciate the community’s patience and cooperation during training exercises which inherently comes with occasional traffic congestion and increased noise,” said Alvarado. PTA is honored to support joint and multi-national training enabling troop readiness and cohesiveness with regional allies and partners.