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NEWS | Dec. 26, 2022

728th MP Soldiers Answer the Call on “Big Island”

By Staff Sgt. Richard Perez 8th Theater Sustainment Command

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — A group of Soldiers from the 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, were mobilized on 72 hours’ notice to augment law enforcement personnel on Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), Hilo, Hawaii, Dec. 5, 2022. The “Warfighters” Battalion Soldiers volunteered for the temporary duty where they were tasked to assist Department of the Army (DA) Civilian Police officers on “Big Island,” in response to increased road traffic due to a nearby volcanic eruption.

The eruption began in Moku‘āweoweo, the summit caldera of Mauna Loa, inside of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and created lava flows that flowed in close proximity to the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Highway, a major roadway that connects the major towns on the island. Spectators from around “Big Island” and various locations around the world, in the amount of approximately 50,000 people with an estimated 20,000 vehicles, flocked to a viewing area that ran through PTA.

As a measure to control spectator traffic flow, the mayor of Hawaii County enacted a safety mitigation plan in order to control public viewing areas along Old Saddle Road, which is situated on a small portion of PTA. Garrison leadership on the training base welcomed the temporary addition of seven “Warfighters” MPs to help with patrols and gate security during the unprecedented event. Volcanic activity had been dormant for 39 years on Mauna Loa, which added to the spectacle and piqued the interest of thousands of people when it started.

Shortly after it began, the seven Soldiers tasked for the mission were airlifted on a nearly 2-hour UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter ride to PTA, in order to execute the rare law enforcement mission.

“I don’t think anyone fully understood the importance of this mission until we were in the flight line awaiting take off,” said Sfc. Aaron Allison, 552nd Military Police Company Platoon Sergeant. “It fully set in the first night we were at PTA and we could see the volcano erupting and the lava flowing down the side of the mountain. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to support this mission and have the experience that we all had out here. The non-commissioned officers and Soldiers that were selected to come out and support this mission were able to experience something that nobody in 40 years has been able to experience.”

During their short stay on PTA, the group of “Warfighters” completed numerous patrols and main gate security hours to ensure the safety of all personnel that work on the garrison and for the people who came to the viewing area for the volcanic activity.

“We were able to build a good working relationship with the DA Police and Civilians that work on PTA,” said Allison. “Overall I think everybody really enjoyed this opportunity to support this mission and it made it better knowing nobody would be impacted by the flow of the lava.”

The 8th Military Police Brigade is continuously involved in operations and exercises that provide opportunities to learn more about the environment, assess the evolving nature of threats, and adjust priorities as needed. We interact with and support populations where they live-on land.