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Military Response in Hawaii Has Been Quick, as Requested by Local Officials

Aug. 25, 2023 | By C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Additional personnel and equipment from the U.S. Army arrive for the Joint Task Force 50 at Kahului Airport, providing equipment and refueling operations to aid in the wildfire recovery efforts in and around Lahaina, Maui, Aug. 19, 2023. Photo By: Army Spc. Sean Walker, National Guard

Right now, Joint Task Force 5-0 has about 572 personnel assigned and operating in Hawaii. The task force’s mission is to support and augment the efforts of county, state and federal authorities in Hawaii to ensure the people of Maui receive necessary aid and assistance.

During a briefing yesterday afternoon, Army Col. David Fielder, who serves as the Joint Task Force 5-0 Title 10 deputy dual-status commander, said the military response there has been as quick as what’s been called for.

“It may seem slow from the outside,” he said. “But … it’s been going very quickly, as needed, as requested by the local and state [officials], who are ultimately in charge of the entire operation.”

On the ground in Hawaii, Fielder said, there are National Guard, Reserve and active duty personnel who make up the task force. Also included in the task force are Army civilian personnel from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

“We have one in the forensic lab, who is helping out, and we’ve gotten multiple on the scene down there as they’re doing the search for remains and they help with that every day,” he said.

Also, Fielder said, about 50 or more members of the U.S. Coast Guard are involved as well as more than 40 civilians from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A team of Navy divers is also getting started in Maui, and they will help with salvage operations as well as looking for remains.

“They were requested [by] the Maui Fire Department, they’ve linked up with them,” Fielder said. “They work with the fire department and they work with the Coast Guard, and they provide an expeditionary and deployable diving and salvage operation for the harbor here and the waterway.”

The divers will, in part, participate in mapping out where boats have sunk and also look for remains inside the harbor.

Fielder said within 72 hours of his being notified about the need for the task force, the JTF stood up. He also said that the task force has, in some cases, moved faster than what the bureaucracy would typically allow.

“We haven’t been waiting for all of the paperwork to go — as long as it’s been a request that [we] could fulfill, we started,” he said. “We just received Navy divers. Within 24 hours of that request, they were on the ground.”

National Guard and Reserve military personnel typically serve in the areas where they grew up. For many in the Hawaii National Guard, Hawaii is home.

“At the end of the day, these are our neighbors and our families that have that have been affected by this and we’re proud to be part of the response,” he said.

By C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

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Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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