Archive for June, 2017

Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area future in question

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Future of Hawaii live-fire range hinges on questions over depleted uranium contamination

A Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment scans the horizon of Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, during the Lava Viper exercise, an annual combined arms training drill that includes artillery and air support, Nov. 2, 2016.



Published: June 7, 2017

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — The Army’s sprawling Pohakuloa Training Area looks small nestled at the foot of Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world as measured from sea floor to summit.

But the 131,000-acre live fire range is the biggest U.S. defense installation in the Pacific, and about 13,000 soldiers and Marines train for war there each year — using everything from machine guns to howitzer cannons and helicopter-launched missiles.

PTA is a valuable U.S. defense asset in the Pacific — so valuable that a $210 million restoration is underway on its cantonment area, notable for dozens of 1950s-era beige Quonset huts.

In recent years, however, the Army has come under increasing pressure by local activists to make a full accounting of depleted uranium buried in the range, a legacy of a Cold War-era atomic weapons system used there.


With restoration planned to extend the range’s life by many decades, opponents see this as a make-or-break moment and have seized upon the issue of possible radiation contamination as a means to curtail or even end live fire training at PTA.

“We want it shut down; we want the live fire stopped,” said Jim Albertini, founder of Malu ‘Aina, the primary group opposing PTA. “We want the military booted out of there, and we want it cleaned up. We’re angry, and rightfully so.”

Bradshaw Army Airfield at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island.

In 2005, the Army discovered components of the Davy Crockett weapons system at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. The system, designed to fire tactical nuclear weapons, was never used in warfare.

A subsequent investigation found that training with the Davy Crockett system also took place at PTA from 1962 to 1968. While no nuclear weapons detonated, spotting rounds containing depleted uranium were fired.

Depleted uranium, or DU, is a byproduct of uranium enrichment, and it is much denser than lead. DU used in U.S. military munitions is 40 percent less radioactive than raw uranium ore found in nature, DOD said.

But it can still be a health threat.

“DU is a potential health hazard if it enters the body, such as through embedded fragments, contaminated wounds and inhalation or ingestion,” the Department of Veterans Affairs said on its website. Exposure to troops comes primarily from those who were on, in or near vehicles hit by friendly fire; in the vicinity of burning vehicles; near fires involving DU munitions; or salvaging damaged vehicles, the VA said.

A health-risk assessment of DU at PTA completed for the Army in 2010 by an environmental consulting firm concluded that “no adverse human health impacts are likely to occur as a result of exposure to [spotter round] uranium present in the soil at PTA.”

But it also noted that the number of DU rounds fired and the exact footprint of the impact area “could not be reliably ascertained.”

Miranda Keith-Roach, an environmental radiation expert with the Stockholm consulting firm Kemakta Konsult AB, reviewed the 2010 assessment at the request of Stars and Stripes. She said the assessment was conducted according to accepted standards and that the assumptions used were “conservative,” meaning worst-case scenarios were used in calculating possible risks of DU radiation exposures.

“The overall results were pretty convincing that it is quite safe,” said Keith-Roach, a visiting scientist in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University, Great Britain.

Albertini maintains that a deeper look at DU contamination at PTA is warranted.

“The immediate thing we want is to stop all live fire and do a complete assessment of the depleted uranium that’s there and a cleanup of that depleted uranium,” he said.

In February, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved an Army plan for monitoring possible DU radiation in a stream where sediment is carried out of the most likely impact zone.

Albertini and three others appealed the decision, triggering a hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. On May 1, NRC staff issued a memo recommending that the board deny the hearing because the four individuals did not have standing, meaning they did not adequately show that they were personally at risk from radiation. The board has not yet taken action.

Among Albertini’s objections is that air sampling is not part of the monitoring.

“In my view inhalation of small DU oxide dust particles is the main DU hazard at Pohakuloa,” he wrote in a petition to the NRC.

The Army maintains that, given the small amount of DU believed to be at PTA, even if it had aerosolized it would have long ago dissipated.

Keith-Roach said DU is the greatest threat while still in small fragments — before it has dispersed.

“You’ve got to remember that we take in uranium all the time,” she said. “Uranium is everywhere naturally.”

DU at PTA would be of greatest concern if fragments are still in “pure elemental form,” which contains far more uranium than dispersed “background” uranium in the soil, she said. “Once you spread that out into nature, then it’s hard to determine [the difference] because there’s a high level of background uranium.”

Renewal of a state lease for about 23,000 acres of PTA land also faces a rocky future.

Malu ‘Aina is urging the state not to renew the Army’s 65-year lease in 2029 for land that connects PTA’s two largest tracts.

The current lease is mired in a lawsuit brought by two people claiming the Army has breached the lease obligations by not cleaning up unexploded ordnance at PTA. The plaintiffs have asked that the lease not be renewed if that is not done.

A trial on the case concluded in October 2015, but the judge has not issued a decision.

The Hawaii County Council passed a resolution in 2008 asking the military to cease all live fire training at PTA until DU contamination is found and removed.

The military, however, will not easily give up a key installation that hosts about 259,000 troop training days per year, which would otherwise have to be done on the mainland.

Most of the trainees are from Schofield Barracks and Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Oahu, but some come from as far away as Alaska and Japan.

Troops from allied and partner nations also train there. During last year’s Rim of the Pacific drills, personnel from eight other countries drilled at PTA. Singaporean soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division trained there last summer as part of the Army’s Pacific Pathways initiative.

PTA maintains about 71 miles of gravel roads that snake around an otherworldly landscape of sheer cliffs, jagged ridges, scraggly trees and patches of grass. Wild goats roam the countryside, long used to the rumbling of Humvees and tanks.

The restoration of the cantonment area is planned from the bottom up, said Lt. Col. Christopher M. Marquez, PTA’s garrison commander.

The seven-year plan’s first step, now underway, is to replace an antiquated sewage system — a series of cesspools, now impermissible under environmental regulations — with a $23 million leach field. Underground and overhead utilities, including all gas lines, will then be replaced.

A third phase would raze more than 100 Quonset huts in the cantonment area and rebuild modern barracks. A few huts might be set aside for historic preservation, Marquez said.

PTA’s cantonment area is spare and would remain so, but comfort isn’t a priority for the 30-day training stints at PTA.

“It’s meant to be austere,” Marquez said. “As soon as you leave the cantonment area, you go into the austere environments where you rely upon your own gear for warmth, for protection against the elements, for protection against any chemical or biological threat.”
Twitter: @WyattWOlson

Remember the USS Liberty

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
Fifty years ago, on June 8, 1967, 34 American servicemen were killed (photos and bios) and 174 were wounded when Israel attacked the USS Liberty navy ship.

It was the highest casualty rate ever inflicted on a U.S. naval vessel, with 7 out of every 10 crew members killed or injured.

Israel’s sea and air attack lasted approximately two hours. U.S. navy fighters located just 40 minutes away were launched to rescue the ship after they received a distress signal. But the White House cancelled the planes just minutes later, and help did not reach the USS Liberty for 17 hours. 

According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer, “Those men were then betrayed and left to die by our own government.”

It is the only peacetime attack on a U.S. naval vessel that, to this day, the Congress of the United States of America formally refuses to investigate.

The survivors are still awaiting justice.

Please join them in demanding accountability by signing this petition calling on Congress to open an official investigation.

Other ways you can help:

Thank you for supporting these men and their families, whose voices have been repeatedly ignored and silenced.

Alison and the If Americans Knew team

Peace with Justice: No More War!

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

 Ban the Bomb! 

Before the Bomb Destroys us all!

      Genius Albert Einstein warned in 1946: “The unleashed power of the atom bomb has changed everything, except our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” US Navy Admiral Noel Gaylor, who was Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC) based at Camp H.M. Smith on Oahu in the 1970s said: “The only defense against nuclear weapons is to stop building them.”

      Negotiations on a multilateral agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons will resume at the United Nations in New York from June 5 – July 7, 2017. A draft of the ban treaty was released on May 22. Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow (13- year old girl when Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945) said “THIS TREATY WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.” Let’s hope so. Our world is in desperate need of positive change but we need to build a global people’s movement to make this happen. Speak up Now! Do not be silent! See

       Song writer Bob Dylan reminds us of war’s vested interests in his song “Masters of War.” “Come you masters of war. You that build all the guns. You that build the death planes. You that build all the bombs. You that hide behind walls. You that hide behind desks… Let me ask you one question. Is your money that good. Will it buy you forgiveness. Do you think that it could. I think you will find. When your death takes its toll. All the money you made. Will never buy back your soul… Even Jesus would never forgive what you do.”

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

  1. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist, known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” was the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the USA’s World War II program to develop the first nuclear weapons. This quote (“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”) is often attributed to Oppenheimer on the occasion of the first successful nuclear test, the Trinity test in New Mexico in 1945, after which USA President Truman authorized the atomic bombings of the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, killing well over 200,000 men, women and children. .

Also – Remember the USS Liberty!

      June 8th marks the 50th anniversary of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty naval research ship in 1967, killing 34 Americans and wounding another 171 in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula. Fifty years later the NSA keeps details of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty secret. A wise person once said: “If you want to know who rules, know who you can’t criticize.” For more details on the USS Liberty Google USS Liberty and see

Why do so few Americans know about the USS Liberty?

  1. Mourn all victims of violence. 2. Reject war as a solution. 3. Defend civil liberties.
    4. Oppose all discrimination, anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Hawaiian, etc.
    5. Seek peace through peaceful means and work for justice in Hawai`i and around the world.

Contact: Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action
P.O. Box 489 Kurtistown, Hawai’i 96760 Phone (808) 966-7622. Email:

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Hilo Peace Vigil leaflet June 9, 2017– 820th week – Friday 3:30-5PM downtown Post Office