by David Corrigan & Stephanie Salazar
MAUNA KEA, Hawaii: After months of answering questions writing environmental assessments, the Army will begin landing helicopters on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade will conduct High Altitude Mountainous Environmental Training (or HAMET) for 20 days – weekends and holidays excluded – starting on October 11th to November 7th, to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the Army a permit for the training, which will consist of flying to three landing zones on the slopes of Mauna Kea and three Landing Zones on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
Once in the landing zones, pilots will practice power management, approach, touch and go, and hovering tasks to prepare them for weather and low oxygen conditions they will encounter when deployed.
The Army says there will be no more than two helicopters in the Mauna Kea areas and three helicopters in the Mauna Loa areas at any one time. Pilots and aircrews will remain in the helicopters, and no ammunition or heavy loads will be carried during this training.
Helicopters that transit over occupied palila habitat will do so at 2,000 feet above ground level.
The training raised the ire of environmentalists and Native Hawaiians, who believe the military footprint on the saddle is growing too large.
But the Army says that familiarity with this specialized HAMET is critical to save the lives of the Army’s aircrews in Afghanistan.