Leave it to the Marine Corps to take one of the nicest places in the world and turn it into one of the most miserable locales I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting.
Pohakuloa Training Area (colloquially known as PTA), is the largest training area in the Pacific, offering Hawaii Marines a chance to shoot some of their bigger and badder weapons for a couple of weeks each year. Anybody that was infantry or arty from MCBH Kaneohe Bay (yours truly) has been here, and as a denizen of both, I can tell you that it’s profoundly worse than the ubiquitous Camp Wilson of Twentynine Palms.
For the most part, you won’t spend a lot of time at the actual encampment of PTA, as most of your short time on this terrible volcanic rock will be spent sleeping in the dirt out on the ranges. With that said, with the lack of the constant Marine presence you find at Camp Wilson, the PTA camp is minimally staffed and largely miserable. A singular, dank little MCX store exists with limited hours of operation, and good luck standing in line at the shitty little pizza shop when your entire company is given liberty for the night.
Of course, this isn’t even going into the depressing, black landscape you’ll spend your nights in. Down Saddleback Road, you’ll find a plethora of large ranges for Marines to attack. You’d think Hawaii would be a nicer place to shoot than Twentynine Palms, but I would trade the heat for the constant rain any day of the week.
Don’t think that these ranges are immune to the powers of a range-stopping endangered animal like the Mojave Desert Tortoise, either. While short on boxed reptiles, the island is home to the Hawaiian state bird, the Nēnē. Should one of these endangered geese fly into your platoon’s range time, you can expect at least a few hours of ceasefire while the game warden tries to figure out how to remove the bird without disrupting it.
If you’re a Hawaii Marine and you’re on your way to PTA in the near future, I wish you the best of luck. God hath forsaken these lands, and you will need it.