Sailors help mop up Kekaha

KEKAHA — Veronica Ulanday lives alone in Kekaha, and was pondering how she was going to get rid of the accumulated water in her yard from all the rains.

Sid Kini, a fire apparatus operator with the Kaua‘i Fire Department Waimea fire station, explained that, whenever heavy rains occur, water from the nearby church drains into the neighborhood, eventually forming a large pond in one of the properties next to a large berm leading to a drainage canal.

Kini said that Ulanday’s home, located on Kekaha Road, would have to be part of a relay-pumping operation, where water from her property would be pumped across the road to the property that was being drained into the canal.

On Saturday, Ulanday, clutching her pet Alfie, watched as about a dozen sailors from the USS Lake Erie, a guided-missile cruiser, joined up with firefighters from the Waimea fire station, as they began the task of pumping water to help dry out the community.

Kini explained that, at nearby Kekaha School, members of a crew from the county’s Department of Public Works would be attempting to pump water from the campus.

Lt. Brian Hill, chaplain aboard the USS Lake Erie, said he put out the word a few days ago, and got about a dozen signups in response.

Tom Clements, the public affairs officer from U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, explained that the USS Lake Erie is on a scheduled port visit at Nawiliwili Harbor and, traditionally, naval ships paying port visits have groups that go out into the community on a “com rel” (community relations) program.

As firefighters got the pump going at Ulanday’s home, Kini worked with Hill to get several sailors tasked with monitoring the draining.

Next door, Lillian Kanahele emerged from her home, and settled into a chair to watch the ongoing activity.

“Good, they’re draining her lot,” Kanahele said. “When they drain her lot, the water from my lot drains into her lot, because hers is lower than mine.”

In the meantime, Ulanday had secured Alfie on a porch chain, and joined neighbors Ulu and Shorty Arashiro as they watched the sailors trudge through the water, heedless of the clothes they were wearing.

“This is good, because I live by myself,” Ulanday said.

Clements explained that a similar mission was done by a group of sailors from the USS O’Kane when they visited Nawiliwili Harbor and worked with Eddie Sarita in sprucing up the Lihu‘e Airport gateway project.

The USS Lake Erie, which is home ported at Pearl Harbor, is the ship utilized in PMRF range anti-ballistic-missile testing, with the crew detecting simulated enemy missiles, using computer-assisted systems to design missile-downing ideas, then launching anti-missile missiles in tests being observed by friends and foes around the world.

As of mid-2002, the USS Lake Erie was the chief of naval operations test ship for the following programs, including the Aegis Light Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) Intercept (ALI); the SM-3 Standard Missile; the Navy Theater Wide (NTW); and the Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD).

The Lake Erie was one of two ships designated to test the SM-3 which was designed to intercept and neutralize the threat of ballistic missiles to people of the United States and their allies.

USS Lake Erie sailors’ primary mission is to operate with those aboard aircraft-carrier battle groups, or as part of surface-action groups in extreme-threat environments.

Their purpose is to detect, classify, and track hundreds of potential targets simultaneously in the air, on the surface, and under the sea.

They can destroy targets using a variety of weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles, rapid-fire, close-in weapons, and electronic jammers and decoys.

Clements said the scheduled port call was planned back in November.

The Lake Erie was not open to public visits during this call.

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