Hawai‘i National Guard troops head home

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Police Dept. Capt. Mark Ozaki gets photos of the C-17 cargo plane, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Hawai‘i National Guard troops get aloha from Kaua‘i dignitaries, including Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami and KEMA director Elton Ushio before leaving for home, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    KEMA director Elton Ushio checks video of the C-17 making its approach to parking, Tuessday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Lt. Kai Kahele, pilot of the C-17 cargo plane, is introduced to Kaua‘i dignitaries, including Rep. James Tokioka, Mike Contrades, and KEMA director Elton Ushio, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Lt. Kai Kahele, pilot of the C-17 cargo plane, gives a brief tour of the plane to Kaua‘i dignitaries, Tuesday during the plane’s stop to pick up Hawai‘i National Guard troops heading home from the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A Hawai‘i National Guardsperson gets a photo of Kaua‘i dignitaries at the mouth of the C-17 cargo plane, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i dignitaries applaud their appreciation, Tuesday as Hawai‘i National Guard troops file past at the entrance to the C-17 airplane.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    The Hawai‘i National Guard troops do hand sanitizing before entering the C-17 cargo plane, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

LIHU‘E — The evidence of going home was electric in the gathering of Hawai‘i National Guard troops at a nondescript gate at the Lihu‘e Airport, Tuesday morning.

“I got to work with them at the Lihu‘e Airport checkpoint,” said Kaua‘i Police Department sergeant Darla Nonaka. “We got to know them, they got to know us — we made a lot of new friends. We had to come and aloha them as they go home.”

Nonaka’s sentiments were shared by the host of dignitaries, including Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency director Elton Ushio, Rep. James Tokioka, and others that watched the C-17 cargo plane touch down at Lihu‘e Airport to transport the troops home.

The anticipation of going home was spread among the four dozen troops, one catching a glimpse of the approaching cargo plane that earlier made stops on the Big Island, then Maui, before touching down for its cargo of O‘ahu-bound troops, some of whom have been deployed for duty on Kaua‘i from as early as March when the novel coronavirus appeared on Hawai‘i’s shores.

Feelings mounted as the going home was delayed a day after the plane developed mechanical problems leading to the postponement of the departure by a day.

Housed in “temporary quarters,” the Hawai‘i National Guard worked alongside local government agencies to help prevent the spread of the new virus within the community, performing a variety of tasks that ranged from manning the Lihu‘e Airport checkpoint, contact tracing, to helping with the Kaua‘i Police Department in policing the myriad of rules, mandates, and guidelines established because of COVID-19.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

  1. John Patt August 5, 2020 7:30 am Reply

    Mahalo to the National Guard troops for their service. But now as they leave we have United Airlines resuming direct flights from the Mainland to Kauai.

    1. DonniePlump August 6, 2020 5:53 pm Reply

      They will be back soon. As travelers from mainland increases, COVID19 cases on Kauai will soon explode. The smart travelers lay low and blend in with the locals and going up and about.

  2. Doug August 5, 2020 8:20 am Reply

    This is really bad. They are needed to enforce quarantine. Having them leave when the virus is exploding everywhere else is terrible.

    1. Imua89 August 6, 2020 9:58 am Reply

      It is just a portion. New members coming.

  3. rk669 August 5, 2020 3:09 pm Reply

    Why were they here on Kauai?
    They would have been better service to Portland or Seattle!
    DUH,which way did they go Iggy?
    Political Stunt,gotta luv Politics!

    1. Josie August 6, 2020 1:22 am Reply

      Political stunt to kill the economy and the working class

    2. Imua89 August 6, 2020 9:57 am Reply

      Why were they on Kauai? Really?
      Portland does not want out of state entities there. Horrible call.
      Not a political stunt, assisting Kauai County.

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