The Army is scaling back its plans for improvements at Pohakuloa Training Area — kind of.
According to a final environmental impact statement released Friday, Army officials decided not to build a Military Operations on Urban Terrain Assault Course or a live-fire shoothouse on the Saddle Road base.
“A number of factors caused the Army to carefully reconsider the programmatic portion of this analysis: the highly uncertain nature of the future projects in the modernization program, a rapidly changing austere fiscal environment, as well as the many public and agency comments received on the draft (programmatic environmental impact statement),” the document said. “The proposed IPBC would improve the quality of training at PTA and reduce a current shortfall in collective (group) live-fire training capabilities for units stationed in Hawaii.”
PTA Commander Lt. Col. Eric Shwedo said officials weren’t really ever intending to build the amenities being dropped from the environmental review. PTA already has a range and urban assault course, he said, but the standard Army plan is to consider building all the facilities in one document.
“There really was no need” for those amenities at PTA, Shwedo said Friday, adding officials began to question “why go through that consultation over something you’re never going to build?”
The Army had budgeted building just an Infantry Platoon Battle Course for next year, Shwedo said. That battle course is the Army’s “most pressing need” at PTA, the document said.
Officials said the planned changes will not increase the number of soldiers stationed at PTA, do not require the Army to acquire new land and do not call for expanding training beyond PTA’s existing footprint. Officials said they don’t expect a “substantial increase” in the number of soldiers who train at the base each year.
However, officials added, as the military decreases operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, many units stationed overseas are returning to Hawaii and spending more time here, so training at PTA may increase to “historic” levels.
“While at PTA, some units may fire more ammunition (this correlates with Army-wide training requirements),” the document said.
Officials also claimed the number of aircraft using the base wouldn’t increase over “historic” levels, but noted changes in which Navy and Marine aircraft units are stationed on Oahu — three new squadrons have been assigned — and those units will bring 9,900 more operations a year compared to current levels by 2018.
Those levels are lower than in the past because of Army and Marine Corps’ deployments overseas, officials said.
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 document 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 public has 30 days to comment. People may mail comments to PTA EIS, PO Box 514, Honolulu, HI 96809, or email comments to USARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil. The final EIS is available for review at the Hilo Public Library, the Kailua-Kona Public Library, the Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library or online at garrison.hawaii.army.mil/pta_peis/documents.htm.