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By Agnes M. Abrau

KOROR (Palau Horizon, July 8) — Private First Class Andreas Karmelong returned to his home in Palau a changed man.

His experience as a young recruit of the U.S. Army has changed his perspective in life.

In an interview, 20-year-old Andreas echoed what his superiors taught him and his colleagues.

"They break you down as a civilian and they rebuild you back off as a soldier," he said.

Back in the country for a three-week vacation, Andreas came home more responsible, more disciplined and with a purpose.

"The experience instilled in me the seven U.S. Army core values – loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I’m more responsible, more confident. I have to conduct myself in a military bearing. It’s a blessing to be a soldier. I feel that my motivational skills have improved. It made me more disciplined," he said.

Perhaps the only Palauan by far to have participated in the prestigious Hometown Recruitment Assistance Program, Andreas is here to help encourage young Palauans, from 17 to 35 years old, to enlist in the U.S. Army. On top of that, he completed basic training coming out as the top four among 50 class members in the academics field.

Quoting what he learned from his more than four-months of intensive training at the Army, Andreas said: "A well-informed soldier is a ready soldier."

He said hopes to inspire and at the same time challenge young Palauans that they can do well in the U.S. Army, by sharing his enriching experiences in the past four months.

The youngest among three siblings, Andreas thanked his parents – Sebastian and Elaine – for their support.

A consistent outstanding student, Andreas was in SDA School from grades one to eight. He then went to Mindszenty High School where he graduated in 2002.

His first-year stint at the Palau Community College came to a halt when he topped the U.S. Army recruitment test. Since then, Andreas said there was no looking back.

His proud parents can attest to his change in bearing and attitude, exuding confidence and discipline and a perspective of a mature, determined man.

In school, Andreas said, he was just a normal young teenager who enjoyed the Palauan lifestyle – hanging out with friends, cruising around the islands – as if time didn’t matter.

Andreas said he was the only Palauan in training along with other recruits from around the world. Others came from Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Korea, etc. Though there were other Palauans recruited, they were assigned to different training camps in the U.S.

When he left Palau last February, Andreas was assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina where he learned basic combat skills for two months.

Later, he was transferred to Fort Lee in West Virginia to take the second phase of training. There, he attended the Advanced Individual Training for seven weeks. Andreas was assigned as a unit supply specialist, a support staff in charge of maintaining supplies in the Army.

In this training, he was appointed as first platoon guide where he took charge of 23 other recruits. Beaming with pride, Andreas said his leadership and keen sense of focus earned him the respect of fellow recruits and his superiors.

He was also picked as the student first sergeant in the whole company.

"This position is a level above privates and one level below drill sergeants," he said.

Andreas is now calling on young Palauans to enlist in the Army. His recruiters gave him 22 days to return home as part of his HRAP recognition.

He said he has already received applicants who want to enlist in the Army. Andreas said he is returning to Fort Grum in New York on July 23 to pursue his work as a 92 Yankee or unit supply specialist.

He said he may likely pursue a career in the U.S. military.

July 9, 2004

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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