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Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Brandenburg — Military Police soldiers conduct support functions at Pohakuloa Training Area during the JPMRC on Nov. 2.
Engineers with the 84th Engineer Battalion erect obstacles at Pohakuloa Training Area during the JPMRC on Nov. 3. (Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Brandenburg/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Thousands of military personnel are stationed at Pohakuloa Training Area for a “first of its kind” training exercise.
The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center is a large-scale training exercise being held on both the Big Island and Oahu from Oct. 31 until Wednesday. Participants in the exercise primarily include the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Infantry Brigade, but other units from Washington state, Alaska and California are participating in a support capacity.
Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, PTA commander, said PTA is a vital part of the exercise due to its size.
“There’s all sorts of fantastic training available on Oahu, but the size of PTA means that the training here can’t be replicated over there,” Cronin said. “The Air Force gets to benefit, too, because of the conditions at Bradshaw Army Airfield. … Landing at high altitude with variable wind conditions and a short airstrip is training you can’t get on Oahu.”
Cronin said the exercise includes practicing receiving and offloading equipment, maneuvering and overtaking enemy positions, conducting resupplies in combat situations, simulated air support and more using blank ammunition and simulated explosives, but real aircraft and vehicles.
Part of the training also includes OPFOR — “opposing force” training, where units act as enemy combatants in competition to outposition each other and complete their objectives more effectively.
“To meet the highest level of readiness, you need the training to be as realistic as possible,” Cronin said, adding that the use of certain hardware, such as the Air Force’s C-17 cargo plane — which hasn’t landed on the island in more than 20 years — is in service of maintaining the verisimilitude of the exercise.
Cronin estimated that there are more than 2,000 soldiers currently at PTA, whether as active participants, support personnel or observers. He said that the base hosts about 1,300 to 1,500 personnel for various other exercises semi-regularly — “a few times a year” — but 2,000 at once is less common.
Training connected to the exercise also was held last weekend at the Keaukaha Military Reserve in Hilo.
In addition to the exercise, Cronin said the Army has held some community service events on the island during recent weeks, including delivering 8,000 pounds of excess food to food banks and cleaning beaches in West Hawaii. He added that unit members also will participate in Veterans Day commemorations on Saturday.
The exercise is scheduled to end Wednesday after a week of rain-or-shine training, and the 2nd Infantry Brigade will start to return to Oahu over the following days.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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