‘Dreams Come True … in Green, Blue Hawaii’
By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Elvis Presley brought Hawaii to the silver screen 55 years ago in “Blue Hawaii,” a movie which spawned a #1 album and a cover of the famous song with the lyrics, “dreams come true in blue Hawaii.”
Elvis, by the way, was a huge supporter of our military.
On March 18, 1961 – just three days before recording the soundtrack to Blue Hawaii – Elvis gave a charity concert at our historic Bloch Arena. The concert raised funds for the USS Arizona Memorial.
But, getting back to blue – and green – Hawaii, there is a reason the 50th state captures the world’s imagination on screen and especially in person.
The spirit of aloha ranks at the top of the state’s attractions, along with the beautiful oceans, beaches, mountains, valleys and sky. Hawaii’s natural beauty brings millions of visitors to the islands each year.
Those of us who are fortunate to be stationed in Hawaii feel a deep sense of belonging and appreciation. It’s literally a “dream come true” to live and work here. We learn about the culture, experience great diversity, and work to preserve the environment as part of the ohana.
I’m so proud to see the time and effort our Sailors, airmen, civilians and family members donate to beach and bike path cleanups. At the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai and at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu, we actively work to protect endangered birds and plants. Our commands embrace renewable energy and promote innovative ways to increase energy efficiency and energy conservation.
I’ve been impressed by how seriously we take our energy and environment responsibilities.
Two years ago, when workers discovered decades-old hazardous military debris buried under the track and football field at Radford High School, we took full responsibility and began remediation. Now the debris is gone and the field is pristine and green again.
More than two years ago, when 27,000 gallons of fuel was lost at Red Hill fuel facility, our Navy team responded to prevent further losses. Today, we continue to modernize the facility, update operating procedures, increase oversight and keep the public informed. We are absolutely committed to keeping the drinking water safe.
Since 2006, we invested $192 million to continue modernizing Red Hill and for environmental tests. We plan to invest additional millions over the next five years in addition to any work required from the Administrative Order on Consent. For example, we recently awarded more than $43 million in contracts to upgrade the facility’s fire suppression, ventilation and oil-tight door systems.
We are taking a deliberate, engineering-based approach with EPA/DOH approval and oversight to avoid a rush to failure or cause unintentional damage to the environment.
Our Navy is moving away from fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy wherever possible.
Energy conservation goes hand-in-hand with protecting the environment, and our Resident Energy Conservation Program is successfully incentivizing savings – both in electricity and in finances – for families in privatized housing in Hawaii and elsewhere. We are looking to do more.
Another Pearl Harbor homeported ship, USS Chafee (DDG 90), along with PMRF, won the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy Environmental awards for 2015.
By the way, Sailors from USS Chafee taught search and rescue swimming to members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society several years ago, before PVS set out on their worldwide “Malama Honua” (caring for island Earth) voyage. The voyagers are now moving up the East Coast to Virginia, Washington, D.C., and New York this summer, sharing their environmental message.
Earth Day is a good occasion to thank our military ohana here in Hawaii for all you are doing in “malama aina, malama kai” – caring for the land, caring for the sea.
We recognize April 22 as Earth Day, but some say every day should be Earth Day, especially here – where dreams come true in “green and blue Hawaii.”