Hawaii – Soldiers have been training at the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) for decades. It’s the largest Department of Defense installation in Hawaii, and has a 51,000-acre impact area which is over 10 times the size of the one at Schofield Barracks. Its training area is more than twice the 14,000 acres of similar training land on all of Oahu.
In 1955, PTA’s military barracks were constructed from World War II prefabricated Quonset huts. One year later, the airfield was built. Since then, very little has changed at PTA. That is, until now.
Recently, the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) invested approximately 1.5 million dollars and thousands of man hours to complete a series of range, target and physical site improvement projects at PTA, partnering closely with the USAG-HI Directorate of Public Works (DPW) at Schofield Barracks and PTA, the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) and PTA DPTMS Range Maintenance.
The 25th CAB’s site improvement work included the construction of a four point Forward Arming and Re-fueling Point (FARP), the main purpose for which is to quickly re-fuel and re-arm helicopters. To improve the FARP, DPW graded and compacted the site, and 25th CAB Soldiers provided the heavy lifting and placing of hundreds of yards of specialized expeditionary airfield material, called AM2 matting. The FARP is now located closer to the aerial gunnery range, making training more efficient by reducing delays caused by weather and decreasing re-fueling and re-arming time for aerial gunnery missions. This change enabled the 25th CAB to complete gunnery five days quicker than previous rotations.
In addition, DPW teamed with aviation Soldiers to erect an Aviation Large Area Maintenance Shelter (ALAMS). The ALAMS is a large, tan “clamshell-type” structure that also contains hundreds of yards of AM2 matting. During this and future PTA rotations, the ALAMS will be used to repair and maintain helicopters; a capability that has been lacking at PTA.
Finally, at four separate ranges from November 2008 through January 2009, the 25th CAB air lifted and emplaced 28 “EOD-T” targets. The targets significantly increase the realism of training by simulating typical threat and non-threatening military vehicles for helicopter live-fire training. In addition, Soldiers and PTA DPTMS Range Maintenance built and emplaced 18 large target sets for the aerial door gunnery range that replicate urban built up areas with pop-up targets to provide pilots and door gunners with target effect feedback.
According to Mr. Robert Misajon, future operations and plans officer, U.S. Army Garrison – Pohakuloa, the nature and scope of the 25th CAB’s work was unprecedented.
“The improvements are very significant, particularly the ALAM Shelter, FARP, and the durable and long lasting hard targets because they can be used by any aviation element,” said Misajon. “On top of that, many of the hard targets were emplaced where they can be engaged by both ground and air elements, or serve as targets for air elements to engage while in support of ground forces. This allows commanders to develop their combined arms teams regardless of the branch of service,” he explained.
“To date, no other unit has invested in PTA like the 25th CAB,” he said. “What’s most impressive about the 25th CAB, though, is that they shouldered the load and made it all happen.”
For Col. Mike Lundy, commander, 25th CAB, the various improvements truly showcase the unique value of partnering tactical units with the Garrison to enable increased realism and rigor to improve home station training in preparation for deployment.
“Our teaming effort with the Garrison demonstrates the power that units can have to enhance out of date and legacy training areas to better replicate the current operational environment,” said Lundy. “We were able to maximize U.S. Army Garrison’s technical capabilities and equipment with our vision, training needs and manpower,” said Lundy. “The result is a training environment that not only has lasting benefits for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, but for all other ground elements and branches of service that use PTA for training.”
“This could not have been accomplished without the tremendous support and flexibility of the Garrison team and the hard work of our Soldiers,” he continued.
1st Lt. Curtis Gibbs, assistant S-4, HHC, Spc. Michael Bueno, III, aircraft repair specialist, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, and Pvt.2 Joseph Daoud, truck driver, 2-6 Cav., were among the over 100 CAB Soldiers involved in the project.
Gibbs was the officer-in-charge of the site improvements and supervised the FARP and ALAMS projects. “The bottom line is that these projects were essential,” explained Gibbs. “We are going to continually use PTA for our brigade’s training events. These improvements ensure that PTA remains a safe and effective location for training,” he said.
Gibbs also stated that none of the work could have been accomplished without the teamwork of others. “I facilitated the missions, but much of the credit goes to our partners, most especially DPW.”
DPW’s project supervisor and heavy equipment operator, Mr. Derek Awong, explained that no less that 500 man-hours were dedicated to help the CAB at PTA. And they were more than happy to do it.
“A lot of our guys are vets,” said Awong. “The reason our guys were out there six days straight was basically because you guys are headed to Iraq,” he continued. “So when I asked if they were willing to do it they said, ‘No problem.’ And they said no problem for one reason: They’ll do anything to support our troops.”
Two of those troopers were Bueno and Daoud. Both were dedicated to unpacking, lifting and placing the 150-pound sections of matting at the FARP and ALAMS.
“The work was very physically demanding,” said Daoud. “I was mostly involved in placing the matting which was challenging because the terrain wasn’t always perfectly flat and we needed to adjust the ground,” he continued. “But everyone worked together which is a result of good NCO’s.”
“We got to build something and see the fruits of our labor,” said fellow soldier Bueno. “You don’t usually get to do something that’s so important to the entire brigade. For me, that’s what was most satisfying.”