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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA American Samoa U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE November 15, 2000 Pago Pago, American Samoa


Congressman Eni Faleomavaega is pleased to announce the recent arrival of Major Evelyn Vaitautolu-Pedro to assist with the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC).

"Major Pedro, as one of the highest ranking Samoan ladies in the United States Army, only confirms what I’ve believed all along, that our local youth can succeed and excel at every major level of the military even with a local education. With the love and support from our people in general, our young people can’t go wrong," the Congressman said.

The eldest in a family of six, Major Pedro is the daughter of High Chief Liugalua Vaitautolu of Faleasao, Manu’a and Mrs. Simeamao Fiaseu-Vaitautolu of Masausi, who are now residents of Tafuna (Naumati).

The Congressman, after a brief meeting with Major Pedro, expressed belief that opportunities for Samoan children are numerous outside of American Samoa but a firm academic foundation and an excellent upbringing enables them to compete with students from all over the United States.

"Since the installation of the ROTC program at ASCC, high school graduates from our local schools enrolled in JROTC can further their military careers and receive a great education at ASCC -- this while still receiving the support and encouragement from their parents here in Samoa. By the time the Samoan youths complete ASCC they would have been exposed to college life and know a lot more of what to expect of military training and spread their horizons off-island."

Major Pedro is a success story of the local educational system. When her father High Chief Vaitautolu retired from the United States Air Force, Major Pedro returned with her parents and family to American Samoa where she attended Samoana High School. She remembered fondly her counselor at Samoana and Army Recruiter, Mr. Sam Vaouli, who recognized her potential to pursue a military career after Evelyn scored well in the ASVAB.

Vaouli took the time to explain what the rewards would be to serve one’s country but made it also very clear that a commitment in the military included many personal sacrifices.

During her graduation from Samoana in 1982, her high school principal, Dr. Meki Solomona, so inspired her with his commencement speech that nearly twenty years later, she remembers it almost word for word.

"I’ve had many happy memories of my growing up in American Samoa, particularly of those special individuals who were determined to help me and many young Samoans to succeed and work for a better future off-island," Major Pedro said of life in Samoa.

Following high school, Evelyn enrolled at ASCC and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) under the command of then-Captain Mapu Jamias, now Installation Commander of the local unit. At the time she served together with a certain First Lieutenant named Eni Hunkin whom she remembered well as close comrades with Jamias -- both of whom were great cheerleaders of her quest to become a Commissioned Army Officer.

"There are many who make a big deal about women’s rights in Samoa, saying we are not given the same opportunities as our male counterparts. My experience was otherwise different.

"Throughout my early climb in the military especially while on island, I succeeded because my Samoan brothers were right along my side urging me to go on and do well.

"The Samoan saying held true in my young life as a Samoan girl, ‘O ‘i’oimata o tuagane o latou tuafafine, e fa’apena foi i tuafafine i o latou tuagane,’ " the 35-year old Major said.

Additionally, Major Pedro will always remember with gratefulness the encouragement and support she received from many military families and friends she has met throughout her travels in her military career.

Major Pedro graduated from ASCC in ’84 and earned an ASG scholarship to Northwest Oklahoma University, where she became a commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1986 and entered active duty in the United States Army.

This daughter of Tutuila and Manu’a did not forget a difficult personal time in her college life when she had to return home to Samoa and make certain that funding for her education continued. The Director of DOE at the time made it possible for Major Pedro, and now as she returns home as a successful product of American Samoa’s educational system, she personally wants to thank Governor Tauese Pita Fiti Sunia for his compassion and understanding during a personally challenging period of her life.

Lastly the grateful Samoan woman said, "I firmly acknowledge Almighty God for all that He has done in my life, especially enabling me to come home and be with my parents and my people. To serve my people in this capacity is truly an honor and I know in my heart that the entire process of this assignment to American Samoa was orchestrated by the Lord.

"There are so many people to thank, my parents for their faithfulness in prayer, all my families and friends who have continued to remember us in their thoughts. I especially want to thank Congressman Faleomavaega and his legislative director, Mr. Martin Yerick, for all of their help in assisting my request for reassignment to American Samoa. Our Congressman’s constant commitment to help Samoan military personnel and all of our people abroad is undoubtedly commendable."

Major Pedro is married to Afeleti Pete Pedro of Matu’u, and they have two sons, Timothy and Benjamin.

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