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‘Hi-Ak’tivity for younger Hickam Airmen

Senior Airman Michael Middleton, 735th Air Mobility Squadron, gets a fast break to the Chinamen’s Hat. Photo by Mark Munsey.

Senior Airman Michael Middleton, 735th Air Mobility Squadron, gets a fast break to the Chinamen’s Hat. Photo by Mark Munsey.

The adventure team gets their paddling set to stride on the way to their next destination.  Photo by Mark Munsey

The adventure team gets their paddling set to stride on the way to their next destination. Photo by Mark Munsey

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- For potentially cash-challenged Senior Airman and below trying to stretch 10 bucks over any amount of time on an Oahu Saturday, their options are limited: Catch a matinee - solo -- and get popcorn and soda -- both small -- or maybe a couple buckets of balls and a Gatorade at a downtown golf course. 

But for 25 Airmen smart enough to register as soon as the program was announced, Saturday was a full agenda. 

Thanks to the perfect storm of 15th Services' Airmen Center and Outdoor Recreation Department, the junior enlisted personnel were treated to the Hiking-Kayak afternoon adventure. 

The Airmen were shuttled to Kualoa Beach Park beach, where the ocean, Chinamen's Hat and the surrounding ranch park vista all battled for 'coolest view' supremacy.
With the Outdoor Recreation guys providing instruction that was either amusingly informative or informatively amusing, paddling partners were determined and Kayak 101 was officially in session. Seat assembly and paddle etiquette paid huge dividends during the half-mile watery trek to Chinamen's Hat. 

"We try and make sure they have a healthy, fun time," said Oahu native and eight-year services team member Teddy Fabella, Outdoor Recreation guide. 

One of the outdoor rec guys asked me not to mention that we almost got in big trouble dragging the kayaks across what - apparently - was the 'antenna farm' occupying the time of several amateur radio enthusiasts. 

So I won't. 

The kayak trip across was just enough to warm up muscle groups that might not have seen the stretch of day for quite a spell. Climbing the hat is an excercise in teamwork that has huge upside, Fabella said. 

"A lot of times, especially for the married couples, there are parts of the hike that appear difficult," he shared. "But I tell them just to trust us, and at the top they get the million-dollar pic. 

"It's something they'll remember for the rest of their lives." 

Words echoed by Senior Airman Tom Hicks, 735th Air Mobility Squadron. "To be able to brag to my friends that I hiked to the top and had this spectacular view in all directions," Hicks said. "I can't wait to see the pictures." 

Those who wanted were provided with snorkel equipment, rejuvenating the body under the guise of floating around seeing underwater wonders. After the kayak back, equipment was locked down while the adventure team had a boxed lunch teeming with special-order sandwiches, water, fruit, and depending on your trading skills either vanilla or butterscotch pudding. 

Just getting to the next stage of the day was a lesson in island beauty, revealing itself incrementally while traveling the old Kamehameha Highway to Haliewa.
Arriving at Haliewa, most of the Airman, strangers when the day started but now willing co-conspirators in a day's adventure, opted to get the kayaks out again for a lap around the Anahulu Stream. 

While the rec guys later secured the kayaks, Tech. Sgt. Margo Ham, Airmen Center Program manager(?) put the evening dining plan in play. 

"They have about an hour and a half to eat, so we take them to the North Shore Marketplace," she shared. "It's code for we know you want to go to Cholo's - and since they have drivers taking them around, why not?" 

Tales of their Hawaiian recreational experiences told by Frankie Supranovich - a outdoor recreation legend since 1973 - were also drank in by the group, while those seated at Sergeant Ham's table made entourage-worthy pitches to her about future potential adventures. 

But she trumped even the most creative idea. 

"I want to set up a shark tank dive," she said in a tone that pretty clearly suggests it will likely be a "when" not "if" scheduling conclusion. 

Permanent passenger status and kayaking. Hiker's high, snorkeling and catching a little wave on the way to shore. A ride to Cholo's. Even better catching a ride home. About 10 hours for 10 bucks. I much imagine friends and family back home have already received their Jpeg- heavy e-mails. 

For your chance to get in the adventure mix, contact Sergeant Ham at 448-0418 or visit the Airmen Center located in the base Community Center.

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