News: Malama Mokapu: MCB Hawaii cleans, clears
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Service members and civilians got down and dirty for a clean sweep of Marine Corps Base Hawaii during Malama Ka Aina, Dec. 3 through 5, 2013.
The Base Inspector’s Office coordinated the biannual event, which involves all MCB Hawaii units doing their part in keeping Mokapu Peninsula clean, from collecting trash to clearing weeds and sweeping sidewalks. The name “Malama Ka Aina” comes from the Hawaiian phrase “to care for the land.”
More than 80 Marines and sailors representing base units joined one of three teams led by the Base Inspector’s Office.
A base working party Marine supervised each team at a designated worksite while another dropped off collections to the base recycling center and the base landfill. Service members also assisted base recycling center staff and helped clean Kaneohe Bay Range Training Facility.
“(Malama Ka Aina gives) all (of) our Marines and sailors on base the opportunity to get out and clean up their (home),” said Sgt. Joshua Cruz, base working party noncommissioned officer in charge at the Base Inspector’s Office.
“This is where we work. This is where a lot of us live and this is where a lot of us spend our time if we’re not on deployment. It’s our house. You wouldn’t want your house dirty, so why would you want your base dirty? We’re (also) showing (locals) that we’re caring for (Mokapu Peninsula and we want to) keep the Hawaiian islands beautiful.”
Cruz said the event also promotes cohesion between everyone working and living on base, whether active duty or civilian. Marine Corps Community Services staff also participated in the basewide event and Forest City encouraged its residents to help by cleaning their individual yards.
All MCB Hawaii Marines and sailors who were not assigned to the three Malama Ka Aina teams were responsible for cleaning their own respective workspaces and barracks areas for the event. The Marines of Echo and Golf Companies, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sat on each other’s shoulders to clean the high weeds off of the fence near their workspaces.
With an oppressive, sweat-inducing heat bearing down, several Marines and sailors across the base put on safety vests and masks for yardwork while others snapped on blue latex gloves, passed out brooms and rakes or began filling white garbage bags.
“(Malama Ka Aina is) definitely important so we can all have a clean environment, make sure everything’s sanitary, all the time,” said Lance Cpl. Sahara Johnson, one of the four base working party Marines, and a native of Amarillo, Texas.
Johnson, who managed Team 3, cleaning Craig Avenue to Mokapu Road and toward the back gate, said they collected four full bags of green waste during the first few morning hours of work.
While some Marines swept the sidewalks and collected green waste and trash near the sides of the road, others collected litter on the base beaches. Others went deep into the green abyss of the percolation ditch wetland area behind Combat Logistics Battalion 3’s motorpool.
There, with direction from staff of the Environmental Compliance and Protection Department, service members hacked and buzzed through tall overgrowth.
Todd Russell, a natural resources manager with the Environmental Department, said clearing the overgrown invasive plants would allow native plants to thrive. He said with the help of more than a dozen service members, the Environmental Department staff progressed in their project nearly 20 times as fast.
“These guys are probably worth two of us each,” Russell said.
He added that the extra help allowed the department to tackle more projects rather than being forced to prioritize one project over another due to a limited staff.
Lance Cpls. Elias Rodriguez and Cameron Wilson were among the many service members chopping and removing vegetation in the wetland, which was infested with flies.
“Somebody’s gotta do it,” said Rodriguez, a warehouse clerk with Marine Aircraft Group 24, and native of San German, Puerto Rico.
Wilson, a motor transport operator with CLB-3, and native of Santa Clarita, Calif., said although the work was slow they were able to cut through several feet of foliage within a few hours.
On Dec. 4, 2014, participants ventured into the base waterways, including the Nuupia Ponds, to retrieve any trash. Cruz said in the past, items such as tires have been found in the waterways.
On the morning of Dec. 4, 2014, Marines, Pyramid Rock Young Marines, and visiting Young Marines from other states, participated in Malama Ka Aina by cleaning the Fort Hase Beach for three hours.
Cruz said it was beneficial for the Young Marines to participate in Malama Ka Aina because they performed a community service while interacting with active duty Marines, and may potentially join the Corps in the future.
But even though Malama Ka Aina was only two days long, for Cruz, Malama Ka Aina can be observed every day.
“We’re Marines,” Cruz said. “We’re held to the highest standard so our base should also be held to the highest standard and we should strive to keep our base looking as best as it can. If you’re walking down the side of the street (and see a) piece of trash, (pick it up), don’t just let it blow away.”