Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: November, 2017 (3) Currently Viewing: 1 - 3 of 3

November 22, 2017 at 11:38am

Extended family of 41 joins Army

More than 30 members of an American Samoa family pose for pictures Nov. 8 at Thompson Hall, Fort Lee, Virginia. Photo credit: T. Anthony Bell

Enlisting in the Army with a childhood friend or relative is a generations-old practice meant to bring familiarity and comfort to an experience fraught with stress and uncertainty.

So, does signing up with more than one recruit further ease the difficulties associated with initial military training?

The answer is an emphatic "yes" as it relates to members of a Samoan family with a decidedly large footprint at Fort Lee. There are 41 of them enrolled in various Sustainment Center of Excellence courses here, twisting the old adage "strength in numbers."

"This is good for us," said 30-year-old Spc. Joseph Tauiliili, assigned to Papa Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, and the oldest among relatives in various stages of advanced individual training. "We come from American Samoa, and we're basically thousands of miles away from home. Seeing them by my side keeps me motivated every day."

American Samoa is a U.S. territory and part of the Samoan Islands, an archipelago that also includes the independent nation of Samoa. It is located in the Pacific Ocean roughly 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and a little over 2,000 miles northeast of New Zealand.

The Samoans in training here -- first, second, third and fourth cousins -- hail from Poloa, an area near the capital city of Pago Pago. All are related to the same malietoa or chieftain. Their decision to join in close proximity was partly based on strong familial and cultural ties, said Pvt. Siiva Tuiolemotu, assigned to Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.

"We wanted to stick together in training," the 20-year-old said, noting her country's communal culture.

Most of the Samoans are training in the Unit Supply Specialist Course taught at the Quartermaster School. A few are enrolled in courses for other quartermaster military occupational specialties, and at least one attends the Ordnance School.

American Samoa, which has struggled economically, boasts strong traditions of military service, said Tuiolemotu. In 2014, a local Army recruiting station was the most productive in the world, according to the Samoa News website. Still, kinship is what drives most to take the oath of service.

"The thing we care about is supporting our families," she said. "If that means (sacrificing) our lives, yes, we have to fight for them."

It also is legacy. Many of the soldiers are the latest to uphold family traditions.

"Most of my siblings are in the military, and I'm the youngest, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps," said 25-year-old Pfc. Vasait Saua, Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.

Pvt. Talalelei Ames said his parents also spent time in uniform, and his father is a retiree. Enduring long periods of separation while they served, he said his military ties were not strong, but that has changed since he took the oath.

"Wearing the uniform makes me feel I am more connected to them," said the 19-year-old. "I think it's pretty awesome. I never had this much fun in my life and never had this much responsibility. Now, I know what my parents went through to protect the country."

The question of whether the Samoans are a close-knit clan or a loose group of relatives was answered during a recent photo session. The Quartermaster School's Sgt. Maj. Micheal Lambert, who organized the gathering, said there were smiles, hugs and kisses reminiscent of a family reunion. To top it all off, they postured as if performing a traditional dance complete with contorted facial expressions

"They are definitely a family," he said.

At some point during their training, the Samoans must face an inherent component of Army life - family separation. The sheer number of Samoans wearing uniforms, however, along with the richness of Samoan culture, is comforting in light of the prospect, said Tuiolemotu.

"I'm the first one who will leave the group," she said, noting a pending Fort Riley, Kansas, assignment. "I'm not worried because there are a lot of us out there. I'm bound to meet another relative somewhere. That's for sure."

November 22, 2017 at 11:42am

JBLM troops join China for exercise

Participants listen to remarks during the opening ceremony of the 2017 U.S.-China Disaster Management Exchange at Camp Rilea, Oregon, Nov. 16. Photo credit: Nathan H. Barbour

The 13th annual U.S.-China Disaster Management Exchange Table Top Exchange (TTE) and Practical Field Exchange (PFE) portions commenced Nov. 16 with an opening ceremony at Camp Rilea, Oregon.

Hosted by U.S. Army Pacific, the DME allows hands-on and side-by-side interaction between United States Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations and enables sharing of lessons learned.

The 2017 exchange focuses on a notional flooding scenario in which both armies will be requested to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to a third affected state as part of a Multinational Coordination Center (MNCC).

Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson, Commanding General, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, welcomed attendees and highlighted how the event builds understanding and trust between the two armies.

"Disaster Management Exchanges like this are invaluable because as they expand in depth with each iteration, they allow us to truly recognize the importance of collaboration in addressing non-traditional security threats such as natural disasters," Davidson said. "Our ability to increase our practical de-confliction, and gain a better understanding of each other's procedures in the event of a real-world disaster response, could be what makes all the difference to the affected state."

Throughout the exchange, personnel simulate real-life scenarios in order to identify procedural gaps and practice techniques required for efficient and collaborative response, such as search and rescue techniques and the construct of the MNCC.

"The PLA and U.S. military both have dignified histories of glorious accomplishments. Although we are geographically far from each other, the respect for human life is beyond national boundaries and races," said Maj. Gen. Huang Taoyi, Deputy Commander, 75th Group Army, PLA Army. "We are ready to join our friends from the U.S. to actively implement the consensus reached by our two state leaders and make concerted efforts to make this year's DME more practical, more in-depth and improve the two militaries' abilities in disaster relief."

Starting in 2005, the DME has been held at locations in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., New York, Washington State, and multiple areas in China. The DME has also matured from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that uses table top and practical field exchanges to focus and facilitate interaction and develop the capacity to de-conflict HA/DR operations between the U.S. Army and the PLA.

In addition to providing a learning opportunity for the U.S. and PLA Army participants, this year, the DME includes military and government observers from Bangladesh, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and the People's Republic of China.

U.S. participants include U.S. Army Pacific, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the Oregon National Guard, the United States Military Academy (USMA), Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 351st Civil Affairs Command, the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), and the 571st Sapper Company, the U.S Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Pacific Disaster Center, an applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii.

November 30, 2017 at 1:46pm

McChord readies for Operation Cookie Drop

The Team McChord Operation Cookie Drop is set for Dec. 5. Photo credit: 446th AW

The Team McChord Operation Cookie Drop is set to bring hundreds of cookies to single airmen assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The drop is scheduled for Dec. 5, but cookie donations will be accepted as early as noon on Dec. 4, at the Chapel Support Center. Any and all cookies are welcome, including ones that are free of any peanut products for those with allergies. The one requirement is that cookie donations are dropped off in disposable containers labeled with name and unit. Team McChord wants to recognize all the help received for this event.

No worries if those baking skills are not world class, because on the day of the drop volunteers are also requested to help with distribution.

For more information, please send an email to: teammcchordcookiedrop@gmail.com.

Recent Comments

Angelic said:

How do we sign up???

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Herbert said:

Military families need support because the situations can be...

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Robin Woo said:

Thank you CPT Harris! That was a memorable tour. Our soldiers today are just amazing!! A...

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Feliz in Seattle said:

The 4th of July 2013 Freedom Celebration was awesome! The presentation of Colors,, the Military...

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