WAIPAHU, Hawaii -- More than 33 students and Mililani High School Army JROTC cadets arrived at Pouhala Marsh, here, on an early Saturday morning to connect what they learned about invasive species, in class, with the real-world experience of removing non-native plants.

The process began with three biology students establishing a goal to tackle invasive species as well as to give back to their ahupua'a (the division of land from the mountains to the sea, similar to a watershed).

Cami Shiroma, Spencer Cole and Samantha Alvarado coordinated with the school's Hui Malama, a volunteer service learning group, and the Mililani Army JROTC Trojan Battalion for the service-learning project, Feb. 2.

JROTC cadets and Hui Malama students worked to remove non-native California grass, one of the most invasive species in the Hawaiian Islands.

The students also learned about the concepts of malama 'aina (to take care of the land) and aloha 'aina (to love of the land) from Sandra Webb, biological and environmental sciences, Mililani High School, and Syd Kawahakui Jr. and his crew from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

Pouhala Marsh is one of the largest remaining Hawaiian wetlands and is home to many native birds, including 10 percent of the world's population of ae'o, the Hawaiian stilt.

In removing the grass, students prepared the banks of the stream for native plants, in turn creating a habitat for native birds.

With more than 1,000 square feet cleared of California grass, the stream has been prepared for further work by the Mililani community. And by introducing the cadets to Mililani's style of service learning, the students built upon the school's public service legacy.

Plans are being made to return to Pouhala, with increased volunteer ranks to plant native species such as akulikuli, wiliwili and hala along the marsh's banks in the near future.

Participating JROTC members included sons and daughters of active duty service members under 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 599th Transportation Brigade, Hawaii Air National Guard, 9th Reserve Support Cmd. and 225th Bde. Support Battalion.