Military, state reach new heights with crane blessing ceremony

(Via Ho’okele News)

Representatives for the state of Hawaii, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard join hands in a prayer with Rev. Charles Yabui, of Kahu Kihapai of Ka Hale Ho'ano O Ke Akua Church on Oct. 8 at Kilo 8 Pier, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Story and photo by MC2 Diana Quinlan

Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii

Representatives from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Hawaii Air National Guard and the state of Hawaii participated in an Alternate Port Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony followed by a traditional Hawaiian blessing of a new mobile crane on Oct. 6 at Kilo 8 Pier, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH).

The main objective and reasoning behind the acquisition of the $4 million crane was to establish an alternate port to enable cargo off-loading at JBPHH if Honolulu Harbor is rendered inoperable.

Participants recognized the importance of working together in protecting the state from possible natural disasters and stressed the importance of collaboration between military and civilian forces in recovery from potential damages.

During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, spoke about the importance of preparedness for natural disasters, a necessity he witnessed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy during his tour in Norfolk, Va.

“Hawaii is indeed a paradise,” said Williams in his address. “However, if Hurricane Sandy and years ago, Hurricane Iniki, taught us one thing, it is that we must be prepared and that requires working together.”

Williams also spoke about the specific challenges that the islands of Hawaii face, due to their isolation in the Pacific and distance from mainland response.

“My staff here has come to appreciate the complexities of what it would take should a Sandy-like incident affect us here in Hawaii,” said Williams. “The tyranny of distance separating us from the initial arrival of forces from the West Coast can and will take days, compared to hours for mainland residents. That is why we must be prepared.”

Lacking physical land barriers to protect the harbor from the tidal effects during hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean, reinforcing Honolulu Harbor is an important mission as it provides more than 80 percent of all commodity goods necessary for residents of Hawaii. Recognizing this vulnerability is what led the state and military forces to unite in a project that would ensure speedy recovery and self-reliance of the islands to overcome potential disasters.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, commander of District 14, explained the roles of Port of Honolulu and USCG Base Honolulu (Sand Island) and their importance in receiving and distributing goods to the islands as she spoke of the alternative methods in case a natural disaster renders these main “lifelines” unable to function.

“The Navy’s commitment to allow a portion of this base [JBPHH] to be used during the emergency response represents extraordinary community planning,” said Thomas.

“It provides the ability to offload some of the much-needed supplies to recover from a disaster. It truly demonstrates the value of partnerships across government at every level as well as with the maritime industry.”

As the ceremony drew to a close, Rev. Charles Yabui of the Kahu Kihapai of Ka Hale Ho’ano O Ke Akua Church provided a Hawaiian blessing of the crane.

Darren Bullock, port security specialist with the Coast Guard sector Honolulu, further addressed the implementations of the crane and its future uses by the services and the state, reiterating the importance of waterways as a main source of goods’ delivery to Hawaii.

“Day-to-day, the Navy will be using and maintaining the crane as the equipment was purchased to be utilized and maintain its functionality,” he said.

“In the event of catastrophic weather that does not affect Pearl Harbor, the crane will go to the state for use in an emergency situation. In that case, U.S. Coast Guard will work together with the Navy commanders to open this port [Pearl Harbor], redirecting ships that are already en route where this crane will be used to unload and redistribute water and food to the rest of the state,” Bullock said.

The memorandum signing party consisted of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, U.S. Navy representatives Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific; Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, U.S. Pacific Fleet civil engineer and commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific; Hawaii Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, adjutant general; and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, commander, District 14.

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