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NEWS | April 26, 2023

Local leaders tour U.S. Army Pacific training areas

By Olivia Van Den Heuvel U.S. Army Pacific

Fort Shafter, HAWAII – County mayors from Oahu, the Big Island and members of the Honolulu Chamber Military Advisory Committee were guests of Gen. Charles A. Flynn, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general on a land and aerial tour of training areas utilized by America’s Theater Army in the Pacific.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawaii Mayor Mitch Roth flew aboard Army Blackhawk helicopters to view training areas, watch a combat assault live fire, learn about Army Jungle training, visit the Department of Defense’s only seed farm, and gain firsthand knowledge of the rigorous training regimen of U.S. Army Soldiers.

“I have always had the greatest appreciation for what [Soldiers] do, and today just verified that. My impression and my respect for what goes on here could not be any higher,” said Blangiardi.

While the distinguished visitors flew over Fort Shafter, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Dillingham Field, it was the stop at Mauka Valley Training Area that garnered the most attention. The controversial valley was the site of intense military training throughout the twentieth century, but a court order in 2004 halted live fire training.

U.S. Army Pacific is dedicated to the land, protecting the environment, preserving endangered plants, and replanting those that may have been taken out by rugged training activity of the past.

“We’re trying to be good stewards and to look after the ‘aina, look after all that we have been afforded the opportunity to do here in Hawaii,” said Flynn. “I know that often we’re viewed as sort of instruments of war, but the reality of it is what we’re trying to do here is maintain the peace and create a safe and stable environment.”

Blangiardi agreed.

“Everything I saw and heard shows nothing but respect,” he said. There’s real caring there. For anybody that might possibly think that the military would be indifferent to even the smallest of subtitles when taking care of a place so magnificent, I would refute that. All the hard work shows.”

To end the day, the helicopters landed in Palm Circle at Fort Shafter where Flynn and Blangiardi addressed media and reflected on their experience.

“It was very comforting to learn the scale and the scope of things from the Army’s perspective and what they’re doing to keep the peace,” said Blangiardi. “As a citizen and as Mayor of the city and county it was more than reassuring.”

This was the first of more planned engagements between the Army and civilian leaders in an effort to better understand each other and seek opportunities for collaboration.