RIMPAC exercises hit Hawaii Island

  • A Navy landing craft comes ashore at Kawaihae Friday for RIMPAC. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Marines land at Kawaihae Harbor aboard a Navy landing craft for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion lands at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion lands at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion lands at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion lands at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A Navy soldier guides a LCAC onto the sand at Kawaihae Harbor as part of RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A Navy soldier guides a LCAC onto the sand at Kawaihae Harbor as part of RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Marines disembark a landing craft at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Soldiers unload heavy equipment from a Navy landing craft at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A Navy landing craft comes ashore at Kawaihae Harbor Friday for RIMPAC. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A Navy sailor guides a LCAC onto the sand at Kawaihae Harbor as part of RIMPAC on Friday.

  • A Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion lands at Kawaihae Harbor for RIMPAC on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAWAIHAE — With a roar of four jet engines, the amphibious vessel’s rubber bags fill with air, quickly lifting the 87-foot monstrosity 6 feet off the ground.

The U.S. Navy LCAC seemingly floats over the sand, kicking up a cloud of dust and mist as the hovercraft’s massive propellers spin, allowing it to turn on a pivot and make its way into the water at Kawaihae Harbor to gather soldiers and equipment from the USS Bonhomme Richard sitting some 3-5 miles offshore.

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“We call it flying,” said Navy Singer Chief Nathan Bricker, an LCAC (short for Landing Craft Air Cushion) pilot, or flight master.

But it’s not the same as with an airplane where wing span and surface is use to create lift allowing the craft to fly.

“We’re not like that, we have big fans that are turning, that are creating thrust to push us up in the air,” he explained.

Those fans pump out over a million cubic feet of air per second, “basically a Category 5 hurricane,” that pushes the amphibious vessel over land and through water, all the while carrying up to 60 tons of cargo, troops or refugees.

The LCAC was one of two high-speed, fully amphibious hovercraft taking part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises on Friday in the waters off South Kohala. The morning was spent transporting Marines and equipment — including large trucks — from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship to the harbor. From there, they convoyed some 47 miles to Pohakuloa Training Area for training.

This year, RIMPAC, which continues through Aug. 2, comprises some 26 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.

The biennial exercises, which take place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, provide a unique training opportunity designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans, according to the U.S. Navy Indo-Pacific Command.

“The importance of RIMPAC to PTA is really demonstrated in the multilateral, combined, international presence that is training there right now. When you have 26 nations participating in an exercise, many of them on the ground at PTA, you see the dynamic interaction between forces and that training is absolutely invaluable to our service members and frankly to our nation,” said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Loreto V. Borce.

“It also speaks to the capacity that Pohakuloa Training Area has here on Hawaii Island to facilitate this high level of training on an multilateral basis,” he added. “And whether it’s on land or sea or air, PTA provides the capabilities for the thousands of service members training to hone their skills.”

Though used for wartime, the LCACs come in handy during peacetime, as well. In the event of a natural disaster or refugee situation, the craft can be used to aid in evacuation. Each can also be transformed into a hospital capable of handling 53 patients on gurneys, or litters.

“They can come on land, which means we can get supplies to help very, very quickly,” Bricker said.

Friday’s training followed a Thursday incident in which an Indonesian military vessel apparently dropped anchor not far offshore of Kawaihae, possibly damaging coral and disturbing fishing grounds known to attract opelu and akule and bottom fish, according to Jojo Tanimoto, vice chairperson of the Big Island Aha Moku Council.

Tanimoto, who represents the Kohala moku, or district, also noted concerns over maneuvers in the near-shore areas affecting the fishing grounds and the spray generated by the vessels that coats area residences.

Contacted by Tanimoto, state Rep. Cindy Evans (D-North Kona, South Kohala) said she reached out Borce, commander at PTA, who worked the channels to get to the right person to have the vessel moved away from the coast. Evans herself went to the harbor, telling West Hawaii Today the following day that “They were too close, they should have not have been less than 3 miles from the shoreline and they were really close.”

Borce was present Friday to ensure all regulations were followed, noting the service members were doing a “fabulous job.”

With the situation rectified, Evans said her next step is to reach out the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources to make sure the fishing grounds, or ko ‘a, are on maritime charts to prevent future incidents.

“We’re going to have to look at the shoreline and figure out the designation for the protected area and make sure it’s on the charts. If it’s on the charts, then anybody should see this is an area you shouldn’t go into,” said Evans. “We should go back and review the charts and make sure they reflect this. We need to at least make sure.”

Also present during Friday’s training were members of the public who called themselves “protectors,” or kiai. They had been unaware of the planned training, but spent the morning observing the activities taking place at Kawaihae while spending time with family making ulu poi. They discussed how the military negatively impacts themselves, their families and all of Hawaii.

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One of those present was Joe Kassel, a naturopathic practitioner and acupuncturist, who said the billions of dollars spent on the “military-industrial Congressional complex” is a waste and that those funds could be better spent elsewhere, such as on education, housing and hospitals.

“This is a dog and pony show to show what we can do,” he said of the display taking place at Kawaihae.

  1. ghost July 19, 2018 8:26 am

    RIMPAC is NOT a “dog & pony show” It’s goal is to reach out to other Pacific nations and form real lasting relationships between people from different countries, military to military, so that in any potential future crisis or natural disaster, these people can smoothly work together. In the past, even China has participated in the interests of promoting peace. Some locals just seize on every opportunity to hate on America and the US military. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb3383fa92a7dad1c1ff89cd75c10ffe93ee5f76f2d9e0ad944df5e16d9af1ac.jpg


    1. bluemoki July 19, 2018 8:59 am

      Some people seize on every opportunity to hate on Hawaii.


    2. John Smith July 19, 2018 5:22 pm

      It is all fun and games until someone bombs Pearl Harbor.


  2. Kaipo Wall July 19, 2018 8:55 am

    A BIG ALOHA to all RIMPAC 2018 participants – Defend Hawaii! – Keep Hawaii Strong !


  3. beyond kona July 19, 2018 10:15 am

    The Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service estimate that training and testing activities that are occurring right now in waters from Southern California to Hawaii will result in more than 9.6 million instances of harm to whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals, and cause thousands of animals to suffer permanent hearing loss, lung injuries, or death.

    The current RIMPAC naval exercises threaten endangered species in Hawaii’s water struggling to survive in an ocean environment increasingly blasted by sonar and other man made marine noise pollution sources.

    The US navy, and other RIMPAC navies playing war in Hawaii’s fragile ocean environment effectively declare war on dolphins, humpback whales, sperm whales, blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, insular false killer whales, Hawaiian monk seals, and five species of threatened and endangered sea turtles by blasting local waters. The deaths of even a few of these marine animals would from this activity be both disastrous and inexcusable. It’s a a big ocean out there, and marine sensitive areas should be totally off-limits to war games.


    1. Du Mhan Yhu July 19, 2018 12:00 pm

      You just signed up today to whine about this?

      Why not raise hell about all the fishing using long lines and nets that continually snare large marine mammals?

      That happens all year long, not for a few days during alternating years.


      1. beyond kona July 19, 2018 3:05 pm

        Nobody is whining about the facts and the growing body of evidence that noise pollution — on land and in the water — is a serious menace for wildlife. In the case of extreme and far reaching sonar bursts used by the military and their corresponding link to mass whale beachings and other cetacean strandings, that too is a scientific fact.

        You’re also correct that long line fishing is another deadly stress point for the oceans’ mammals and merits immediate action to correct what has become the strip mining of the ocean’s sea life and deaths of bycatch consisting of a wide variety of non-target animals, including sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and non-target fish, in what amounts to a mass slaughter at sea.


    2. Buds4All July 19, 2018 4:50 pm

      Fake News. As an Islander and one who participates in this you my friend are an uninformed pile of dung and the best part of you ran down your mom’s leg at conception!


  4. Frankie Shepard Stapleton July 19, 2018 11:19 am

    I’d prefer this to the SuperFerry for public transport!


    1. Buds4All July 19, 2018 4:48 pm

      We had one the Tree Hugers got rid of it!


  5. Buds4All July 19, 2018 4:51 pm

    Welcome US Armed Forces and Mahalo for your service to provide a safe nation for our people.


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