By ERIN MILLER
Stephens Media Hawaii
The federal government has given the U.S. Army $29 million to build a new infantry platoon battle course at Pohakuloa Training Area.
Military officials have been planning the training area improvements since at least 2011. Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Eric Shwedo said the new battle course will allow all service branches that use PTA to better equip their soldiers, sailors and Marines for combat. That training will help save servicemen’s lives, he added.
“Technically, it’s going to be a very advanced range,” Shwedo said Friday. “The sooner (it’s built), the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
He said Army officials are still working out some of the details about which fiscal year the funding falls under. Construction is expected to begin in Fiscal Year 2014, an Army spokeswoman said. The project is authorized and funded by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization and Fiscal Year 2013 MILCON-VA Appropriation acts.
The project will build a battle course “that is compliant with current Army training requirements to ensure our soldiers receive training in accordance with existing Army training standards,” the environmental reviewing documents, released in April, said. “The proposed (course) would support the live-fire collective training needs of Army, Army Reserve Component and Hawaii Army National Guard units, as well as other service components that are stationed or train in Hawaii.”
The PTA range complex has 31 direct-fire ranges in the installation’s northern, eastern and southern regions and 23 training areas within PTA and the Keamuku Maneuver Area.
“The battle course allows the Army to train and test infantry platoons and other units in the same way they would fight, as a group,” a press release from Army officials said Friday. “The skills necessary to detect, identify, engage and defeat stationary and moving infantry and armor threats will be trained and tested in this course. Soldiers would fight the threats with small arms, machine guns, and other weapon systems as part of live-fire training exercises.
This battle course allows soldiers maneuvering on the ground to practice coordinating air support.”
Soldiers will train with live-fire, as well as subcaliber and laser training devices, the announcement said.
The Army reached an agreement with the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and Hawaii State History Preservation Office as part of complying with the Section 106 consultation process.
The agreement outlines which steps the Army must take to reduce possible negative impacts on cultural resources. For example, Army officials said Friday, the construction design team will avoid cultural resources where possible. Construction crew members will get educational and awareness materials and will take protection measures at the site to help them avoid cultural resources, officials said in announcing the funding and construction time frame.
The Army will also be introducing new measures to protect wildlife on the military property, particularly to avoid impacts to nene, during construction and while using the battle course, officials said.
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