Got a hint? You're welcome to submit news ideas.
Frmr. Guam Congressman and (ret.) USMC Gen. Ben Blaz, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Papaliitele David Cohen chat with Aumua Amata
Amata Aumua and Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. At the White House Shamrock Ceremony, Ahern presented the Irish shamrock to President Bush to symbolize in a very special way the bonds between the Irish and American people. Following the ceremony the White House held a reception with an elaborate spread of food and drink to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day 2007. Said Amata, "Speaking as a proud Samoan with a wee bit of Irish heritage, it was truly an honor and I thank the President for including me."
Amata's Journal: Day Six
New Samoan church rising at Fort Gordon
Reprinted from Samoa News
by Aumua Amata
FORT GORDON, GA. We had the option of spending a few days in Atlanta or arriving at Fort Gordon earlier than planned for our Asian Pacific American Heritage event but chose instead to spend extra time at Fort Benning when I learned that, by total coincidence, my childhood friend Dr. Trudie Iuli Sala was in the area that weekend to attend the graduation ceremony of her daughter Pele Chun Ioane, a staff sergeant who was being awarded her Masters Degree from nearby Troy University.
Of course, Trudie and daughter Jayleen Kaprina flew in from Pago to attend and I also met Pele's husband, SSG Vena Ioane, and their child at the graduation. Both Pele and Vena were stationed at Fort Benning but immediately after graduation they transferred to their new duty station in Mississippi. A large group of Samoans, some of whom I had not met at the military's Asian Pacific American Heritage observance, turned out just to celebrate the special occasion with Pele and her family as well as to wish them well in their new assignment.
No weekend would be complete without a Sunday and no Sunday at a U.S. military base would be complete without a Samoan church service. It was a pleasure to accompany the Puailoa clan to the Samoan Christian Congregational Church in Columbus where Pastor Loama Sialega presided over an inspiring hour of worship and Samoan hymns. The pastor and his wife Renisi Sialega also were at the Memorial Day barbeque/umu the previous day.
Fort Benning being a major center for Army basic training, we knew we would not be surprised to find Samoans among the new recruits and, sure enough, we found that Eki Tupuola of Fagasa and California was in training and persuaded his drill sergeant to let us enter the barracks to have a few moments with him in the recreation room to bring greetings from home. Our sudden appearance caught him by surprise but I think he did appreciate seeing folks from back on the island.
Our mission at Fort Benning complete, we departed for Atlanta on Memorial Day Monday where we would spend two days in meetings before heading to Fort Gordon. Suburban Atlanta being the headquarters of the Flying Doctors of America (FDoA), I arranged to have lunch with the group's president, Dr. Allan Gathercoal. FDoA is a non-profit organization that sends teams of doctors, dentists and other medical professionals to areas of the world that are underserved in health care. The team pays all its own costs from the Mainland U.S. to the point of entry of the place they will be working and the host government underwrites the costs for the team's lodging and meals during their mission.
Readers will recall that I arranged for FDoA to bring a medical team to Tutuila, Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u in 2010 and I wanted to spend a little time with Dr. Gathercoal to see about the possibility of FDoA returning in the future. Over the past 20 years, FDoA has concentrated on missions to rural places in Africa, Asia and South America, with American Samoa being their first ever mission in the Pacific. Since their visit to our islands, they have taken missions to Melanesia and Micronesia, so I hope I can persuade them the time is coming for a return to Polynesia. We also were joined at lunch by Dr. Rao Mikilineni, a pulmonologist who was part of the 2010 medical mission to the territory and a popular member of the delegation.
In Atlanta, I also had dinner with Sunny Park and Baoky Vu, two businessmen who were my colleagues as commissioners on President Bush's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Sunny was born in Korea and Baoky originally came to the States from Vietnam as an eight year old refugee. We dined at Ray's in the City, undoubtedly the best seafood restaurant in Atlanta with the freshest oysters and perfectly broiled filet mignon and lobster tail but most importantly I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with my two dear friends. Both of these men are successful in what they do not only in their professional lives but in their communities and as we conversed, it became clear to me that Sunny's and Baoky's paths to achievement, like mine, are rooted in our Asian and Pacific cultures.
A good night's sleep in suburban Atlanta and we were off to Fort Gordon in the beautiful city of Augusta, GA. Just as I had never focused on the fact that Fort Stewart was only a short distance from the port city of Savannah, I also did not realize that Fort Gordon was in Augusta, the home of the prestigious Masters Golf tournament, one of professional golfing’s four major annual tournaments. Older folks will remember that President Eisenhower was a member of the Augusta National Golf Club and played here often during his tenure in the White House.
The golf club's exclusive membership policies have drawn criticism over the years, particularly its refusal to admit black members until 1990, a former policy requiring all caddies to be black and its refusal to allow women to join. Less than a year ago, Augusta finally admitted former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and billionaire Darla Moore, the first two female members to break the gender barrier at the Club. When we arrived at the Club we asked permission to look around and take photos but were told that club policy prohibited non-members from entering the grounds or taking photographs unless as a guest of a member.
Nonetheless, our visit to Fort Gordon was spectacular, particularly as we were hosted by my aiga, Pastor Lupe Muna Salt of Pago Pago and her husband, Pastor Lui Salt. Pastor Lupe's two sisters, military veteran Alualu Claxton and Merota Muna had just hosted us at Fort Stewart. As is the case at many other Samoan churches near military bases, Pastor Lui Salt is an Army veteran (SFC) who planted roots outside the base from which he retired. While Fort Gordon's official APAHM ceremony was held May 16 I was actually delivering the keynote address at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Pastors Lui and Lupe Salt generously hosted us in Augusta and organized an informal APAHM observance at their church. I was excited to be with the Salts again since I had last seen them when they traveled all the way from Fort Gordon up to Fort Jackson's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month observance in 2010 along with a group of Samoan entertainers from Fort Gordon to partner with Fort Jackson to be part of that Fort Jackson gathering. Samoan soldiers from Forts Bragg and Stewart also joined us at Fort Jackson that year.
Pastors Lupe and Lui and their daughter kindly set aside their day to give us a tour of the city and the Fort, which was established in 1917 as part of the buildup for American involvement in World War I. It is the current home of the US Army Signal Corps and Signal Center and is located in Augusta Georgia. The main component of the post is the Advanced Individual Training for Signal Corps military occupational specialties. Signals Intelligence has become more visible and comprises more and more of the fort's duties. We originally were scheduled to be there only one night but extended our stay by a day because there was so much to see. I did not want to leave the areas without touring the Signal Corps Museum, where I enjoyed learning all about the history of Signal Corps, in which my brother Bruce once served, and the training program.
However, the centerpiece of my visit was the service at the Pastors Salt's Nations Christian Fellowship Church, at which we were treated to remarks not only by Pastor Lui but also Pastor Filipo Sualevai of a second Samoan Church in the area--- the Augusta Samoan Christian Church. Others who were present included Pastor Filipo's wife Aotearoa Moli-Sualevai, Pesini Tinae and wife Petesa Tauoa-Tinae and Sefo Etuale.
So dedicated are the members of Pastors Salt's church that the pianist, Frank Tauanu'u from Matu'u and Faganeanea, a retired member of the Air Force, actually drives nearly three hours from his home in Macon, home of Warner Robins AFB, to conduct the music service at church each Sunday. He also made the trip from Macon to provide music for our special service, which was on a week night. Tauanu’u is an Army veteran now serving the city of Warren Robins as a firefighter.
I also was privileged to meet some of the church members, including Jacinta McKenzie-Humphries, Cecilia Chamness-Woodruff, Steffanie McKenzie-Baxter, AricaMcKenzie-Batchelor, Danielle Arnold, Liaina Sitagata and his wife Tifaimoana Olo-Sitagata, Sunika Atuatasi and wife Noreen Atuatasi, Franklin Tauanu'u and wife Trina Demetria Tauanu'u, Fa'aumaTalisoa, Aitu Sui Vaesa'u, Napoleon Roache, Manu Batchelor, Bailey Batchelor and Faith Baxter.
I was honored to speak to the congregation and guests about my tour of nine bases in the southeast and how proud I was to find that our Samoan and other Asian and Pacific cultures remain so vibrant so far from home and how parents are instilling in their young our value system that starts with glory to God and stresses the importance of family and our ancient traditions.
Following the service, we were served a delicious dinner that the congregation had prepared. There was so much food which included thick steaks, chicken, pork, seafood, sapasui, oka and other Samoan delicacies. The meal concluded with two specially baked cakes decorated with my name, which the pastors asked me to cut. The whole evening was a great opportunity to worship God and enjoy fellowship with friends and family in the Samoan military and civilian community.
The pastors Salt also were excited to show me a new church building for which the congregation had raised money and which the pastors were soon to sign the final papers to purchase. We drove by the building but did not go inside because it was not yet in the possession of the church. So while I could not see the inside, the pastors described their plans to build out the interior and when it is complete in about a year, it will be awesome. If I can arrange my schedule, I would like to come back for the dedication.
The structure is solidly built and once served as a warehouse, so the possibilities are endless for constructing not only a magnificent sanctuary, but comfortable office space and classrooms for Sunday school. There also is plenty of space on the grounds for ample parking, so there should not be any difficulty in holding special events there as well. The pastors have every right to be proud of the ministry they are developing.
Samoan churches are vital components of parents' efforts to maintain our culture away from home. Pastors Lui and Lupe Salt are more than doing their share to help that process along. God Bless their ministry and I will always remember their warmth, generous hospitality and kindness.
Additional photos may be found on my Aumua Amata page on facebook or by emailing me at
Reports on next stops include Fort Jackson, Camp Lejeune and Fort Lee.
Amata joins Samoan community to observe Memorial Day weekend at Fort Benning
Fort Benning Base. After filling the trunk of the car with tons of sweet onions from Vidalia and Georgia peaches from Peach County, we made our way west the rest of the way across Georgia to Columbus, the home of Fort Benning. Even though I had been to there twice before, I was especially looking forward to this trip because a new 190,000 square foot National Infantry Museum opened there in June, 2009 on a 200-acre tract of hardwoods and pines just outside the gates of the Fort’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. Former Secretary of State GEN Colin Powell (USA, ret.) was the featured speaker for the dedication.
It particularly excited me to visit this magnificent new building not only for the awesome life-sized displays of famous infantry engagements going back to the American Revolution but also because they moved into the building the Army Ranger Hall of Honor and the Officers Candidate School Hall of Fame, into which my father was inducted. I was privileged to be there for his induction in 1979 and brought my children there to the old Hall some years later as we were passing through the area on the way to a conference in Alabama.
We were blessed to have been invited by military veteranTumua Puailoa of Pava'ia'i and his lovely wife Tolua, who hails from Lauli'i, to stay in their home during our stay at Fort Benning, which was longer than our other stops because it stretched over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The Puailoa family was most kind to host us for our entire visit and it almost felt as if I were back home. The Puailoas have seven children, many of whom grew up in Columbus, which was Tumua's final duty station before retiring from the Army; many of the kids still live nearby and are raising their own children there. Moreover, Tolua's sister Sinoi Moimoi, Mark and family live next door on their cul de sac, in effect creating a compound-like atmosphere in the neighborhood.
I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know Tumua and Tolua's many family members including children Filo Soli and Dave; Fai Solia and Frank Solia (USA); Tumua Puailoa and Crystal (US Army Reserve); Nive Puailoa; Siale Puailoa who's stationed in Hawaii; grandchildren Tavita, Samuelu and Mana Soli; Masina, Frankie, Marley and Ave Solia; Tolua Yazmin Puailoa; Fetuao and Matthew Muao and Arienna Puailoa.
So, the Puailoas have assembled all the ingredients needed to successfully import Samoa into Columbia GA, complete with an umu in their spacious back yard. Tumua has taught all the children and even the older grandchildren to put together an umu. There's a lot of hard work involved in the preparation so all hands were on deck beginning at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning to get the umu started and several hours later we, along with the Samoan community, enjoyed for Memorial Day weekend a perfectly cooked Size 2 pig and all the various delicious fixings and trimmings that go into a traditional umu.
It was great to fellowship with the Samoan community whose youth also performed and I marveled at how these young ambassadors excel at keeping our culture live and their pride in their Samoan heritage is evident in their dancing and singing although many of them haven't ever been back home to the islands. Pastor Loama Sialega and his wife Renisi of the Samoan Christian Congregational Church of Columbus/Fort Benning, along with retired Pastor and Mrs. Sene, joined us along with the congregation and their families.
Fort Benning supports more than 120,000 active-duty military, family members, reserve component soldiers, retirees, and civilian employees on a daily basis. It is the home of the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, the Armor School, the Infantry School since 1918, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment 3rd Brigade-3rd Infantry Division and many other additional tenant units. Two days before our Memorial Day weekend gathering, however, I was invited by the base commander, MGEN H.R. McMaster, to be guest speaker at Fort Benning's formal Asia Pacific American Heritage Month observance, which was held in the spacious McGinnis-Wickham Hall at the huge new Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.
In my remarks, I told the servicemen and women and guests gathered that several years ago I had received an award from the International Leadership Foundation in Washington, D.C. for my community and national service. On that occasion, I listened carefully to the stories that were told about my fellow honorees' paths to achievement as they were receiving their awards I realized that, whether their accomplishments were in government, business, science or the arts, all of us Asian Pacific Americans shared common values such as respecting our elders, honoring our country, believing in a strong national defense and reaching decisions by consensus. These are the very same values that Samoans bring with them into military service.
At the conclusion of the program, which included a wonderful display of Polynesian dancing performed by the Hula Halau 'O Kalani, which included Samoans as well as Hawaiians in the Columbus, GA-based troupe, I was presented with a certificate of appreciation signed by the General but, in what was a complete and heartwarming surprise, I also was presented with a replica of my father's Hall of Fame Citation Plaque. I will forever treasure that thoughtful gesture and will display the plaque in an honored place in my home. At some point in the future, I will donate the plaque to ASG so that it can be displayed either at the Jean P. Hayden museum or at Government House, where my father lived as the sixth longest serving governor in United States history, a fact that is forgotten or not known by many younger residents of the territory.
The observance concluded with a delicious luncheon that included an array of Asian and Pacific dishes to which all the Asian and Pacific military personnel were invited. I was delighted to be able to take this opportunity to greet and chat at length with some of the Samoan troops who were there, including CPT Helaman Fepulea'i of Pago village; SPC Manuel Kazaka of Tafuna; SFC Luki To'ia of Alofau; SSG Michael Petelo of of Pava'ia'i; SPC Joshua John Vegafria of Guam; SSG Robert Smith of Aua; SPC Nathan Vaitautolu of Tafuna; SSG Francis Leatiota and others and will be carrying their messages back to their families on island.
I also had the opportunity to visit with Eki Tupuola who was in training at Fort Benning and soon to graduate.
It was a good thing we had built extra time into our schedule because in addition to the formal ceremonies, the museum tour and the weekend umu, I also was able to attend the graduation ceremony of the daughter of my childhood friend Dr. Trudie Iuli Sala. It turned out that Trudie's daughter, Pele Chun Ioane, was being awarded her Masters Degree from nearby Troy University while I was in the area. Of course, Trudie as well as Pele's sister Jayleen flew in from Pago to attend and I also met Pele's husband, Vena Ioane, and their child at the graduation. Both SSGs Pele and Vena were stationed at Fort Benning and transferred to their new station post in Mississippi immediately following Pele's graduation. I marveled at the large group of Samoans who turned out just to celebrate the special occasion with Pele and her family.
Our last day at the Fort was Memorial Day itself and I made it a point to visit the cemeteries at Fort Benning and Fort Mitchell, a historical site adjacent to Fort Benning across the state line in Alabama. Fort Mitchell was a 19th century army base whose cemetery is now under Fort Benning's control. Accompanied by Tolua Puailoa, I laid a wreath at the grave of Frances Suapa'ia of Iliili, the Samoan spouse of an Army Command Sergeant Major who passed away in 2007. At the Fort Benning cemetery, we laid a wreath at the grave of Guamanian SSG Jose Perez Pangelinan who died in 1995.
We were not aware of it at the time but in one of those not-so-uncommon "small world" coincidences in the Pacific, we learned that SSG Pangelinan was a first cousin to our dear friend David Perez, who once worked for my father on Saipan during Trust Territory times.
Our Memorial Day tribute to SSG Pangelinan--meant to honor all Pacific Islanders who have served in our nation's armed forces and have since passed away--was now complete and we were on the road again.
Next stop: Fort Gordon
American Samoa's major exports: Tuna, Soldiers and Football Players
by Aumua Amata
At a recent conference I lightheartedly told my audience that American Samoa's three major exports were canned tuna, soldiers and football players. All three of those commodities came into play on the fourth stop of my military base tour: Fort Stewart, GA. I would say that close behind those three items is a fourth export: churches.
Everywhere there are Samoan communities - be they civilian or military - it will come as no surprise that you will find a Samoan church. In the case of Fort Bragg, with over 1,000 soldiers and many retirees living in the area, there are two Samoan churches. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict prevented me from visiting the Samoan Assembly of God church on the base, but before we left for Fort Stewart we did have a chance to worship with the Samoan community at the CCCAS Fayetteville Church, whose pastor is Rev. Mana'omia Tauanu'u. I was delighted to discover that both he and his wife Se'ela hail from Manu'a. We enjoyed the wonderful service, particularly the pastor's inspiring sermon and the beautiful singing. The pastor also gave me an opportunity to speak to the congregation and I told them how proud I was that the young people, especially those who have never even been to American Samoa, are maintaining our cultural traditions so far away from home.
From Fort Bragg we drove to Charleston, SC where I visited the Citadel in my capacity as a member of the board of directors of Field house 100 American Samoa. I am always on the lookout for colleges that might be interested in providing scholarships for our student athletes and it seemed to me that as a military academy, the Citadel might be just the sort of school to which we might be able to send two of our exports rolled into one: football players interested in becoming soldiers. I met with the college's chief recruiter and will be putting him together with FH100-AS Executive Director Brandon Smart when I return to give him my report.
Although it is not an active military facility, I very much wanted to tour Charleston's historic Fort Sumter, at which the first shots of the Civil War were fired. It sits in the middle of a bay, however, and it would have consumed more time than we had available before our scheduled arrival at Fort Stewart, just over the South Carolina state line and outside of Savannah, GA.
Because there are only one fourth as many soldiers at Fort Stewart as Fort Bragg, I had expected the physical size of the fort to be smaller than Bragg as well but was surprised to find it was twice the size of Bragg and is actually the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River, where tank, field artillery, helicopter gunnery, and small arms ranges operate simultaneously throughout the year with little time lost to bad weather.
Even though there are fewer soldiers (and fewer Samoans) at Stewart than at Bragg, there are two Samoan churches here as well. Our host for the visit was Alualu Claxton and Loka Muna of Pago Pago, and I look forward to visiting with their sister Pastor Lupe Salt at Fort Gordon. Alualu and Loka frequently attend Pastor Salt's church and they also stay in touch with the congregation of the First Samoan Church of Christ, whose pastor is military veteran Uati Savea. Pastor Savea and his wife graciously hosted a dinner for us at the church, which is on a large nine-acre parcel of land in Hinesville, adjacent to the base. After a private meeting with the pastor and several church elders, he had dinner with his congregation, which includes many of the Samoan soldiers stationed at the fort.
Because so many of the units are deployed at the moment, there are relatively few Samoans at the fort at the moment but we were pleased to be able to bring news from back home to their family members. The soldiers we did meet with included some who had transferred from Fort Knox which is consolidating with other forts. We met with Naotala Rob Misaalefua of Manu'a. He is the nephew of the late Felei Misaalefua and his wife Tapu, two very good longtime friends. Pastor Savea, himself a military veteran, is a proactive, energetic minister who reaches out to all the Samoans and brings great comfort to family members worried about the safety of their Toa o Samoa abroad. We also visited with my friend Ruth Tauanuu whose dad Tauanu'u I often visit at his store in Se'etaga for a chat. There were many other congregation members I enjoyed meeting including Martin Tauai, Misa, and Eveline Falelua who took great photos. We would have loved to have more time to tour the fort but we had a long drive ahead of us the next day and needed to get an early start because we had one stop to make along the way to Fort Benning.
Just off the Interstate that connects Savannah with Columbus GA on the other side of the state lies the small, rural town of Lyons GA. With a population of 5,000, Lyons is but a blip on most radar screens but it is a town well known in American Samoa because it is a town well known in American Samoa because it is where Chicken of the Sea canning plant was relocated when the company closed its plant in the territory. The cannery is a huge, windowless facility, which I had hoped to tour but plant security guards said that was not possible without advance arrangements. I also had hoped to speak with plant executives to see what additional employment opportunities might be available for Samoans, since we have military retirees living not too far away outside of Forts Stewart and Gordon. Unfortunately was not able to meet with any plant executives either without an appointment in advance and was unable even to speak with one by telephone. It is a shame that I could not make a connection but I intend to pursue this issue when I return home. As I hope to combine football and soldiering at the Citadel in South Carolina, I also thought I might be able to link military veterans with tuna cannery jobs in Georgia. We shall see.
One benefit of having made the small side trip to Lyons was that I had to pass through the small town of Vidalia to return to the Interstate. Vidalia is the home of my favorite variety of onions and I picked up a large 50-lb bag which was distributed to Samoan Vidalia onion fans along the way. We also passed through Peach Country so, naturally, a bag of Georgia peaches also found its way into the trunk of my car. With that, we set off for our next destination: Fort Benning.
More photographs from this and other stops on my trip can be found on the Aumua Amata Facebook page.
|Aumua Amata with American Samoa's Closeup students (Ace, Aiden, Alisi, Anasitasia, Edwina, Jaeleen, Jordael, Kerryleigh, Kimberly, Lapaloma, Lei, Naomi, Nerisa, Paul, Prince, Ruth, Ruta, Sione, Soaalii, Theresa, Ula and Tulimalefo'i) at the Department of the Interior as well as their banquet last evening where their cultural performance was awesome. Nice job, students and teachers. So proud of you guys. Fa'afetai tele teachers Alofagia Young-Alopopo, Edmund Amataga, CU Supervisor /OCIA Pisavale Tialavea and parent Tonumaipea. June 6, 2013.|
Samoans dominate Asian-Pacific entertainment at Fort Bragg
FORT BRAGG, NC. A five-hour drive southwest of Norfolk, the trip to Fort Bragg was one of the longest legs of our journey to nine military bases in the southeastern states. This is my third time to the fort, which is spread over four counties in North Carolina and is home to 40,000 people in an area five times the size of Tutuila. Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) "Koko" Totolua Robert Yandall, who has spent 35 of his 41-year (and counting) Army career at Fort Bragg (and is currently the longest serving soldier at the Fort) told me that the population count includes well over 1,000 Samoans.
When we entered the huge USA Sports complex for the Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, it seemed like half of the Samoan population was present. Moreover, Samoans dominated the entertainment. It was a great source of pride to me to watch all these young people perform our traditional dances and I can tell you that if they sent overseas the group of Toa o Samoa who performed a traditional war dance, the world would be at peace in a flash.
Fort Bragg is the home of the US Army Airborne Forces and Special Forces, as well as U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command. So, it is no wonder there are so many Samoans stationed here. I first visited Bragg with my father in 1983 who came here to pay tribute to the Samoan troops and two years ago I accepted Sale Solaita's invitation to come to the Fort to participate in his promotion ceremony to captain. Captain Solaita, son of our late, beloved Peni Solaita, is still posted here and was a key leader in organizing the entertainment.
When people ask me about American Samoa, I tell them we are noted for three major exports: canned tuna, football players and soldiers. I have heard that at one point when StarKist and Van Camp were operating at full capacity, one third of all canned tuna consumed in the U.S. came from American Samoa and it is well known that a Samoan male is 40 times more likely to play in the National Football League than a male from any other segment of the U.S. population. Sadly, we have suffered disproportionately greater combat casualties than any other U.S. State or Territory but although I do not have statistics to prove it, I believe American Samoa also provides a disproportionate number of Army enlisted leaders as well.
Command Sergeant Major (CSM) is as high as you can go in the Army and the person holding that position right now at Fort Bragg is Isaia "Ace" Vimoto of Utulei, a soldier with over 31 years of service in the Army. CSM Vimoto, who assumed his new position since I was at the Fort two years ago, served as master of ceremonies for the entertainment portion of the APAHM program. Although the program was meant to showcase the rich variety of Asian and Pacific cultures, it was the Samoans who dominated the day and their performance was greeted with great enthusiasm by the audience. The speech making part of the program was actually held earlier in the week when I was at Fort Eustis. Saturday was devoted to family, food, fun, entertainment and competition.
Following the formal program, which was launched with an early morning 5k fun run, the Samoans gathered for a fiafia at which Capt. Solaita presented a token of appreciation to CSM Vimoto for his leadership. For his part, CSM Vimoto pledged that during his tour at Fort Bragg he would devote time to developing the large Samoan community to build Samoan spirit and camaraderie. I also was invited to make remarks and told the audience, which consisted of most of those who had entertained earlier, how proud they made me to be a Samoan by working so hard to preserve our ancient culture and traditions.
It was a real treat to be the house guest of CPT Roland Tsuneo Glenister, his wife Megan, a former beauty queen, and daughter Madeline. Roland, who I call by his childhood nickname "Tune," is the son of my youngest sister Limonmon and her husband Tuaua Roland E. Glenister of Nuuuli, who himself is a retired CSM. Young Roland said he learned a lot growing up in a military family watching senior enlisted leaders interact with commissioned officers. He said it gives him an extra advantage in working with senior enlisted men with many years more experience than he has, such as men like CWO Yandall and CSM Vimoto. Roland's two brothers, my nephews Stewart and Marshall, also are Army officers.
Roland and Megan have a spacious home on base and staying there gave me the opportunity to cook Sapasui, for the post-entertainment get together with the Samoans. As I spoke at the barbecue, I thought to myself that I very well could be talking to future American Samoa leaders for another tradition we have is Samoans in the military coming home to serve our people in traditional leadership and government. The group photo from my first visit in 1983 includes a young Warrant Officer Koko Yandall, of course, but it also includes Tuileama Nua, our current Director of Health, my brother-in-law now Command Chief Warrant Officer Lincoln Glenister, now retired Green Beret Pepa Fuata and his late wife Vai, Lene Maseuli, Sam Samuelu, Tofa Salafai, To'atolu Nua and many others too numerous to mention.
And of course, although he wasn't in that particular photograph, our Lt. Governor Lemanu, is a retired Army Major. So, while we may export soldiers, when they complete their military service we import them as leaders. Not a bad trade.
More photos can be found on the Aumua Amata page on facebook.
Aumua Amata's Journal
Reprinted from Samoa News
Samoan SGT is NCO Of The Year at Joint Base Langley-Eustis
Ever since President George W. Bush appointed me to his White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2001, I have accepted invitations to speak at various military bases celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). This year I was particularly honored and proud to be in the company of SFC Susie S. Nu'uvali-Apineru of Aua, who has won the 2013 distinction of Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year for the 1st Battalion 210th Aviation Regiment. She also competed for and won the recognition as 2013 NCO of the Year for the 128th Aviation Brigade and was the only female who competed for 2013 NCO of the Year for the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence against 19 male NCOs, finishing in second place. SFC Nu'uvali is currently an Instructor/Writer with the 128th Aviation Brigade on Aircraft Avionics Systems and has been selected to join the Aviation Logistics NCO Academy as a Senior Leader.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE), which unites Fort Eustis with the adjacent Langley Air Force Base, combine installation support operations to serve Airmen, Soldiers, family members, military retirees and civilian employees. This large Joint Base is only the first stop of a four state swing I am making to visit nine military bases in the southeastern United States this month to thank our Toa o Samoa. Because APAHM every year also is National Military Appreciation Month, I have the double opportunity of celebrating our heritage and thanking our Samoans in the Armed Forces for their service to our country. JBLE is a beautiful 9000 acre base that is home to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps as well as the Nation's oldest continuously active Air Force Base.
Led by Major General Bradley W. May, the Senior Commander of JBLE and Deputy Commanding General of Initial Military Training Center of Excellence, who is responsible for standardizing, refining and assessing training for initial entry Soldiers, recently commissioned and appointed junior officers and warrant officers at 27 installations across the United States, host brigade commander Col. Dean D. Heitkamp, in his welcoming remarks at Wednesday's formal observance, said to the more than 300 military personnel assembled, "As mentioned in the Presidential Proclamation, today we take time out not only to recognize the challenges and struggles that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have faced with determination and optimism, but also to celebrate their rich culture and history." Col. Heitkamp recognized (Retired) General Eric Shinseki, our first Asian American four-star general and 34th Chief of Staff of the Army and LTG Thomas Bostick, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NCO of the Year SFC Nuuvali.
In my own remarks that followed, I said "As one who comes from a family with a strong military tradition dating back to the early 1900s in American Samoa, it is heartwarming to be able to celebrate with our military and civilian community at Joint Base Langley-Eustis and I was delighted to see my fellow Samoans in the audience, all of whom have families back home." It was good to be with SFC Susie S. Nuuvali-Apineru, Iosefa Weggen and their son Tauloa Weggen, SSG Christopher Fielding, Cristy Va'a Fielding; Christyann Fielding; Cyrus Fielding; SGT Lagi Custodio, her husband SGT Jason Custodio and their son Jacob Custodio; SGT and Mrs. Joe (Mieyann) Uilelea, SSG Susie N. Gaines, Senara Leapai and her son Seiuli; Sia Leapai. I cherish these occasions and am proud of those who serve in our Nation's military and help make it possible for us to continue to live the American Dream. I will relay their messages to their families when I return home.
A reception was held following the ceremony, which featured Kalua Pig and other tasty Asian Pacific cuisine provided by local restaurants. Later that evening, the base Samoan community invited me for a lavish dinner at which I had the chance to bring them news from back home. A good time was had by all and the food absolutely delicious.
We started this journey in Washington on Tuesday after I had a couple of days to readjust from my trip in from Pago Pago. The drive on this first leg of the journey was about three hours but I will have traveled over 2,200 miles by the time we have finished. Today we leave for the short drive over to Naval Station Norfolk, where I will deliver tomorrow the APAH keynote address to the military and civilian community at the world's largest Naval station.
Samoans well represented in Norfolk
Rolling into Norfolk, VA after our visit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, there was no question we were in a town dominated by the military. Naval facilities and other services' building dotted the landscape and, of course, as we went over the many bridges that span the various waterways in the area that ultimately flow into the Atlantic Ocean, we could see warships of all sizes, including aircraft carriers in port.
If asked what is the largest city in Virginia, most people probably would guess Richmond, Roanoke or Norfolk, but it is actually Virginia Beach, a city adjacent to Norfolk and also home to many defense facilities. This whole area of "Tidewater Virginia" is dominated by the military and Naval Station Norfolk is not only the largest naval base in the world, it is the largest military base of any kind in the world. For the U.S. Navy, it is the home of our vast Atlantic Fleet.
Because I was to deliver the Keynote Address for Asia Pacific American Heritage Month and National Military Appreciation Month, our liaison officer, Chief Petty Officer Michael Atchley, arranged for us to be housed at the nearby Navy Lodge, an off-base visitors quarters located conveniently just a short drive where the celebration would be held.
Although the Army is the service of preference for many Samoans, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we are well represented in the Navy as well, both in the active duty Navy and the naval retirement community. In fact, Norfolk is also the home of one of the largest and best organized groups of Pacific Islanders on the Mainland outside of California: the Pacific Islander American Group of Virginia (PIAGVA).
The group's president, Iakopo Poyer, a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander from Laulii, founded the organization five years ago with the stated purpose "simply to preserve our culture, to educate others about our culture and to educate our people to become self-reliant, productive members of society - by focusing on the needs of our youth and teaching them, by example, to be civic minded and active citizens of the community in which they live." The PIAGVA website ( http://www.pacificislandersofva.org) goes on to say "Our overall mission is to bring together all Pacific Islanders (and islanders at heart!) striving to keep the "island spirit" alive - through programs, activities and workshops within the community. As Pacific Islanders, WE HAVE A VOICE!"
The highlight of PIAGVA's social calendar is an annual Polynesian Festival held in Virginia Beach on the ocean front, which draws hundreds of islanders from as far away as New England to the north and Georgia to the south for a day of food, fun and fellowship. This year PIAGVA also organized an Asian-Pacific Islander American Heritage Month celebration last weekend in Norfolk in conjunction with the observance at the base. Unfortunately, I already had committed to the celebration being held the same day at Fort Bragg and could not participate.
LTCDR Iakopo Poyer of Lauli'i, known as "Jake" to his naval colleagues, also was asked to organize the entertainment for the on-base observance that I was to address. We had breakfast before the ceremony and he spoke enthusiastically about the growth of PIAGVA and the growing visibility and influence of Pacific Islanders in the state. Had it not been for the conflict at Fort Bragg, many of the soldiers from there would have driven up to Norfolk for PIAGVA's May 18 event and others are expected from Fort Lee outside of Richmond. As it was, five different military installations helped organize the event so it was very well attended.
Iakopo accompanied me to the base where we were met by CPO Atchley and escorted to the theater, a facility that seats about 500 people. It was clear to me Iakopo is a familiar and well respected presence at the Naval Base and when something is needed for or by Pacific Islanders, Jake is the "go-to" guy in Norfolk. There were fewer islanders than I expected in the audience but CPO Atchley explained that many were deployed at sea at the moment . Although the base is huge, there is not a large presence of sailors at any given time because ships rotate in and out of port on a regular basis. I was pleased that the audience did include, LT Maelina "Tiale" Sakaio, a young female Naval Academy graduate of Tuvaluan heritage. Her parents are currently on Kwajalein, where her father, Mike, is Coast Guard liaison to the Army base commander there.
With Iakopo in charge of arranging the entertainment, it should come as no surprise that the performances were dominated by Pacific Islanders. After my remarks, in which I talked about the duality of our nature as both Americans and Asians or Pacific Islanders, we were treated to Samoan songs and music and a hula dance performed by Jojo Callas, orginally from Hilo, Hawaii. Jojo did three Hawaiian hula numbers and her long time dancing experience shone through. I'm in admiration of the many Pacific islanders who continue to showcase their island heritage and culture through dance and song and one would never guess that some of them haven't been home to the islands for years. The Samoan numbers were performed by the highly talented and popular Levi Otineru, a retired military veteran originally from Savai'i and his Hawaiian-Samoan wife Emma.
The Base Diversity Committee, which organized the APAH event, also put together an all you can eat buffet luncheon (with your military I.D. of course) consisting of popular Asian and Pacific island foods, including whole roasted size 2 pua'a, island style potato salad, chow fun noodles, shrimp pansit, sapasui, chicken adobo, palusami, lumpia and many other tasty dishes from all over the Pacific. I was really looking forward to that part of the program but with a five-hour drive ahead of us to our next stop, Fort Bragg, we couldn't linger and departed almost immediately after the island entertainment. It was gratifying for me to know that at Norfolk, awareness of Pacific Islands will not be limited to a single observance on a single day as long as Iakopo Poyer and PIAGVA are around. I would recommend to readers in the mid-Atlantic area of the U.S. to plan on heading to Virginia Beach August 9-10. You will love it.
First appeared on the SamoaNews.
Aumua's Op-Ed: Washington shake up presents Governor Lolo with challenges and opportunities
By Aumua Amata
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As part of the ongoing shakeup of his administration, President Obama's announcement that he will nominate REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell as his next Interior Secretary is the latest and one of the most important leadership changes with which Governor Lolo will have to contend when he makes his first official gubernatorial visit to Washington at the end of this month.
Building relationships with a whole new set of federal officials is just one more big challenge for the Governor as he launches his new administration and tackles our local problems.
On the surface, it would appear that the 2012 federal election was a "status quo" contest, with President Obama returning with a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Republican House majority. But while it is true that the President sets overall federal policy, the vast bulk of specific policymaking and execution, and day-to-day relations with territorial governments, is conducted at the cabinet and especially the subcabinet level.
In addition to the secretary of the Interior, there will be several other new cabinet officers in this second term who will be running departments of importance to us including Treasury, State, Defense, Energy, Labor and Transportation. Any changes to tax exemptions for StarKist, for example, involve Treasury; our regional relations - including those with Samoa - involve the State Department; road building and maintenance funds require help from Transportation; and the continuing controversy over our minimum wage rate involves the U.S. Department of Labor. I could go on but you get the point.
The Governor and his directors also will have to deal with the ripple effect that will be caused by the changes at the top. While we may have only one or at most two non-career appointees in our agencies here, cabinet changes in Washington can affect dozens of lower level officials. Even without a change of party control, a new secretary quite often will want his own team not only in his immediate office but in the sub-cabinet of deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries in his department. They, in turn, have a bevy of non-career staff assistants.
Moreover, new sub-cabinet officials and political staff will not magically appear overnight. It may be several months before a new cabinet secretary has his or her own team in place, briefed and fully functioning. At Interior, our vital portal into Washington, we already know there will be one important change because Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta resigned effective February 1. A new assistant secretary for insular affairs is not likely until Secretary-designate Jewell has settled into office. The same is true at other departments as well.
So, it is unlikely all the new officials with whom it will be vital for the Governor to establish working relationships will even be in office yet when he makes his visit to Washington to attend the National Governors Association winter meeting and a number of important intergovernmental meetings that are held annually on the sidelines of that meeting to take advantage of the presence of all the island governors in one place at one time.
Because the Obama administration is only one of the two political branches of government, we also must pay great attention to nurturing our relationships with Congress. At the same time the Governor will be building friendships in the Executive Branch he will be establishing new key relationships in the Legislative Branch.
The Hawaii delegation in particular always has been important for us, because we are their closest neighbors, whom they know and understand. Moreover, they have large Samoan constituencies of their own so they have a special sensitivity to our needs.
However, in the Senate, where we particularly need sympathetic friends because we have no representation there, the retirement of Sen. Akaka and the passing of Sen. Inouye is requiring us to build a whole new network of allies. We have relied greatly on the help of the Hawaii delegation over the years, and have been fortunate to have the same two senators in office for the past two decades - one of them for a half century. It will take time and energy to get to know their successors and their new staffs.
Speaking of Energy, we also have a change in the Senate Energy Committee chairmanship; the panel has jurisdiction over insular policy. Retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has been replaced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), whose interest in our issues is largely unknown. Fortunately, Sen. Wyden has retained Allen Stayman as his lead staff member of insular affairs. Al is a good friend of the islands with years of experience and an understanding of our issues.
The House will be less of a problem because the Natural Resources Committee leadership remains unchanged. Doc Hastings (R-WA) continues as committee chairman while Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) - a physician who once did a Navy tour on Guam - again will head the subcommittee handling insular issues. Del. Kilili Sablan (D-MP) will be the subcommittee's Ranking Member.
Last week I was invited to attend the Louisiana State Society's annual Mardi Gras festivities in Washington, took the occasion to renew my acquaintance with Chairman Fleming and reminded him we have a new Governor who no doubt will want to make a courtesy call on him when he is in Washington for NGA. The Chairman was very receptive to the idea.
At House Foreign Affairs, Del. Faleomavaega of course will continue as Ranking Democrat on the Asia Pacific subcommittee, but the exciting news is that our own Tulsi Gabbard, the freshman congresswoman from Hawaii, has been selected as third ranking Democrat on that same subcommittee, behind only Faleomavaega and one other freshman Democrat from California. So, just as in the case of Del. Sablan, who is Ranking on Insular after only two terms, you can see from Tulsi's high placement how quickly a new member can build seniority with the rapid turnover of membership in the House.
All but a handful of states and one other territory, Puerto Rico, have shifted their gubernatorial elections to the even-numbered years in which we do not also elect the President. It would be a good idea for the Fono to review our election calendar because as long as we continue to be heavily dependent on the federal government, we are handicapped in our dealings with Washington when we elect a new Governor at the same time a President is elected.
The Governor needs time not only to settle into office with his new administration but also to develop relationships with officials in Washington who are learning their new responsibilities as well. It would an even more daunting task if there had been a concurrent change of party control either in Congress or the White House this year.
Regrettably, because a new Governor has to appoint his cabinet officers and shepherd them through our two-house confirmation process while the Fono is in session in January, invariably he must sacrifice a trip to Washington for the Presidential Inaugural, on which occasion he would have boundless opportunities at Inaugural events to establish relationships at the highest levels of government.
So, even with the "status quo" stateside elections, Governor Lolo will have his work cut out for him on his maiden voyage to Washington, with a lot of ground to cover. While it will be his challenge to educate new policymakers, he also has the opportunity to make our case to these leaders who come into their new jobs with fresh perspectives and without preconceived notions. That's a good thing.
First appeared on the SamoaNews.
Visiting our local scholars in the States
By Aumua Amata
At the Football Center of Gardner-Webb University. Left to Right: Military Veteran Lene Maseuli of Mesepa; Faga'itua's O.J. Lei'ataua Fa'amausili Mau Mau of Masefau; Samoana's Phillip Eneliko Fata of Pago Pago; Mrs. Puanani Maseuli; Aumua Amata; Preston Pemasa and Kapono Asuega of Orange Country CA; Charlotte NC Police Officer Rick Fetolofa'i Olomua of Aoa. (See story inside) [courtesy photo]
CHARLOTTE, NC - As a founding board member and the current officer of government affairs for Field House 100 American Samoa, I try to keep track of our young scholars whom the organization places in stateside colleges to see how they are progressing with their education.
Field House 100 American Samoa is a local non-profit organization that finds scholarships for students to colleges and universities under the leadership of executive director Brandon Smart. Our mission is not only to place them with the college but we also help them through their transition after leaving the island.
Whenever I am traveling on the mainland for meetings and conferences, I make a special effort to contact our local Samoan communities. Over the years I have learned that you never know where you are going to find Samoans; and when you find one Samoan family you are likely to find a community; and, when the community grows large enough, there likely will be a Samoan church.
A few years ago, in the very cold state of Minnesota, for example, we brought together over 40 Samoans and Tongans, including some who did not know of each other's existence.
Our own deputy attorney general, Eleasalo Ale, hosted one of the group events, which was attended by Malae Langkilde with whom I grew up here on island, who is mayor of Burnsville, a town in the area with a population size similar to that of our Territory. It is gratifying to know that the group still gets together periodically and is keeping our cultural ties strong.
So it was no surprise to find Samoans in the Charlotte, NC area where I had meetings last week. Additionally, two of our 80 local students and one from Australia are enrolled at Gardner Webb University, which is about 70 miles west of Charlotte on a beautiful campus nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Needless to say, as near as the school was, I wanted to visit our students, especially the ones still adjusting to a new culture and climate so far from home. It was a real blessing when two of our Charlotte area Samoan community leaders, military veteran Lene Maseuli of Mesepa and Rick Fetolofa'i Olomua of Aoa, quickly offered to accompany me. In fact, Olomua, a Charlotte police officer, who also leads a Polynesian dance troupe, did the driving.
We arrived at the Boiling Springs campus at lunchtime and met four of the students at the main cafeteria, which offered an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for $6.50. I thought to myself that it's a good thing there are only four Samoans at the school, otherwise at those food prices it would probably go bankrupt.
The students, Samoana's Phillip Eneliko Fata of Pago Pago, Faga'itua's O.J. Lei'ataua Fa'amausili Mau Mau of Masefau, Preston Pemasa and Kapona Asuega had already eaten, but sat with us while we took advantage of the buffet and afterwards gave us a guided tour of the campus.
Of course, as members of the football team, they all beamed with great pride in showing off the magnificent new training facility that just opened recently. Gardner Webb is a member of NCAA's Big South Conference, which plays in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. All four students, one in each class, are defensive linemen.
I am happy to report that these four young men all appear very well adjusted to college life in the states. I asked them what besides family they missed the most about being away from home, and they all - even Kapono Asuega and Preston Pemasa who were raised in California - agreed they missed Samoan food, taro, palusami, ulu, pilikaki, pisupo.
We said our farewells to the students with Officer Olomua, Maseuli and his wife Nani promising to remain in touch with them and offer them a home away from home whenever there are holidays or break periods which are too short for them to travel back home. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to bring people together. It may have been the most important thing I accomplished in Charlotte.