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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2023

JTF-50 Assists with Water Distribution in Maui

By Spc. Sean Walker 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Hawaii Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Joint Task Force 50 (JTF-50), Operation “Ola Hou” delivered water dispensing LVT-2 Water Buffalo’s to the residents of Kula, Maui, Aug. 26, 2023.

Ever since wildfires raged across Maui county on Aug. 8, 2023, many communities have been affected by the direct impact of the fires, loss of power, and loss of usable water.

“I was in Washington State when the fires happened, so I felt pretty helpless,” said Amber Yamamura, a resident of Kula, Maui, and a volunteer. “Now that I’m home, I’m trying to do whatever I can for our ʻohana’ here.”

For the community of Kula, clean water has been a struggle to obtain.

“We are at the Kula distribution site up in north Kula,” said Hawaii Army National Guard Capt. Christian Walker, Task Force Maui operations officer in charge. “We’re here for distribution support, specifically water distribution support for the Kula community.”

The unprecedented wildfires that spread throughout Maui affected multiple infrastructures within the communities.

“We are assisting the Kula community by giving out potable water due to the natural disaster that just happened,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Lomboy, an Army water treatment non-commissioned officer assigned to the 29th Brigade Support Battalion.

Before the wildfires that impacted the community, water had been in short supply due to drought conditions across west Maui.

“The wildfires that happened here in Maui caused the water to become undrinkable," said Lomboy. “We’ve brought potable water for the community to use to wash, drink and feed their pets.”

The essential use of water is critical for the environment, survivability, and daily life.

“Our mission is important because we need to support the residents of not only Lahaina but also areas affected by the wildfires like Kula,” said Walker. “Those communities that have also been affected by the wildfires throughout Maui County.”

Through the tragedy of the Maui wildfires, the strength of the communities has emerged.

“The island has pulled together, and not just our island, but all the outer islands in Maui County like Molokai and Lanai,” said Yamamura. “Everyone has come together to help, and it's been great to see.”

Extending a heartfelt hand to the affected communities of Maui is deeply personal for the compassionate Soldiers and Airmen of JTF-50.

“I appreciate us being here to support the communities affected by the wildfires,” said Walker. “It's great to see us supporting both Lahaina, Kula, and greater Kahului for all of our distribution support, our site security, and assisting with the overall help with search and rescue in mind.”

The utmost priority at JTF-50 is safeguarding the well-being, security, and hope of survivors and their communities.

“Not surprisingly, the Maui community is very strong,” said Lomboy. “ I’m really happy to see the amount of volunteers coming together with the community to support this type of mission.”