Am. Samoa Army Recruiting Station Ranked #1 In The World

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FY2014 figures now at 153 recruits

By B. Chen

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 16, 2014) – The figures are in and the numbers definitely prove that American Samoa produces committed young men and women who are willing to die in defense of the freedoms we so richly enjoy.

As of Sept. 9, 2014, the local US Army Recruiting Station is ranked #1 in production out of the 885 Army recruiting stations and centers under the United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC), which includes all regions representing the 50 US states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Korea, Japan, and Europe.

All recruiting centers and stations are given a mission. That is, the number of recruits to put in for that particular fiscal year.

For FY2014, the local US Army Recruiting Station put in a total gross of 153 recruits.

DEDICATED STAFF

"As a testimony to our profession, we recruiters are passionate about our work and are driven to help those who are interested in joining and searching for a better life and future," local recruiter SSG Laban-Ilalio explained. She referred to local recruiter SFC Ira Uiagalelei (son of Dr. Lealofi Uiagalelei) who has not one, but two daughters in the US Army.

Uiagalelei’s daughter Ireen was the last person to join the Army for American Samoa for FY 2014. She joined the Army Reserve on August 28, 2014 and is attached to the 411 FSC Engineer Headquarters at Fort Shafter, Hawai’i.

"SFC Uiagalelei believes so much in the Army system and what it has to offer, that he put in his own daughters," SSG Laban-Ilalio said. "For us, Samoan recruiters assigned here to American Samoa (SFC Uiagalelei, SFC Shimasaki, and myself), we are very passionate about our work. We see ourselves in these students and young people who have never left Samoa. We treat these kids, especially our future soldiers, as if they are our own kids."

During every Future Solder Orientation session, SSG Laban-Ilalio makes it a point to explain to parents that if their child comes home and says they were yelled at while at the office, "keep in mind that it's not done in vain, but it is to help get the kids ready for a military training environment and being able to handle pressure and stress."

She added that there are aspects of the recruiting job that are set by the Army and USAREC regulations, and things that are not considered recruiters' duties but "we do it because o le alolofa i tamaiti Samoa (our love for Samoan kids)."

She said Samoan kids off island that are ASVAB qualified under the Army’s passing score requirement of 31 or more (21 for American Samoa), but may have some issues with their weight have reported that they did not get the help they were looking for when they went to see recruiters off island (regardless of which military branch).

"This was their testimony and they have left messages on our Center Facebook page thanking us for the treatment they received. (Their parents flew them down to American Samoa for us to work with them and process them, even though they met the US ASVAB requirement to join in the States)," SSG Laban-Ilalio said.

As an example of their commitment, SSG Laban-Ilalio explained, "A very high percentage of our population who are interested in joining the Army are initially not qualified; however, we spend countless hours helping them through physical fitness training. We would get up at 4 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. to get to the far east or far west sides to get these future soldiers to work out with them, come do our job at the office, and then go back out in the evening to do physical training (PT) all over again with these kids."

She added that training for recruits that have already sworn in are conducted in both English and Samoan "to make sure they understand, which will greatly help them when they get to basic training. These are more than just ‘check the block’ objectives for us: we really want these kids to be successful."

To keep the parents and families up to date with information, local recruiters have also created a Future Soldier Orientation session which takes place after the applicants swear in and take the oath of enlistment.

The orientation is to explain to parents and families what is expected of the recruits in order for them to ship to basic training, and what to expect while there. To date, six Future Soldiers Orientation sessions have been hosted, at the end of quarterly DEP/MEPS enlistment trips.

No other branch of service in the territory provides this service. By regulation, the Future Soldier Orientation is for the recruit (not necessarily open to parents and families); but here in the territory, it’s a whole different story.

"We take extra steps" and invite the recruits’ parents and those that influence their lives to come out so we can "answer all their questions and concerns."

Most questions pertain to military benefits for parents and families (i.e. PX privileges, medical appointments/doctor visits, MAC flight benefits, Soldiers Life Insurance beneficiaries, why their sons or daughters got certain job assignments etc.)

The first DEP trip for FY 2015 is October 24-31, 2014.

This is when the MEPS team members fly here from Hawai’i to conduct medical/physical examinations of applicants in American Samoa who want to join the military. This will also be the last time for calendar year 2014 to join the Army in American Samoa. The next trips will be in February, May, and August 2015.

BENEFITS

A huge benefit of the local Army Recruiting Station is that Commander SFC Miguel Diaz is the only authorized person in American Samoa (to include all sister branches) that can actually contract someone. This means, not only can he can pull up an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) which they are qualified for, what MOS’s are available (have training seats or vacancies) but he actually "contracts" these applicants — actually puts their MOS ship date for Basic Combat Training and AIT, (Advanced Individual Training) and any monetary bonus (if applicants are eligible) on paper in black and white.

This contract is then signed by the applicant, guidance counselor (SFC Diaz) and the enlistment officer. This is a legally binding contract, where the Army guarantees the applicant's training dates not only at BCT, but the specific MOS they are contracted for.

The Army is the only branch that guarantees an MOS for 100% of its recruits/applicants. _This means before applicants take the oath of enlistment as a soldier, they already know when they are leaving American Samoa for BCT, and what specific MOS they have.

"We do not do ‘open contracts’ (like other branches); meaning, shipping out to BCT without knowing what MOS they have," Laban-Ilalio explained.

Currently, local Army recruiters are planning a lot more community events and getting even more involved with the schools, volunteering to help out with instruction and serving as substitute teachers as needed by the high schools.

PENDING TATTOO REVIEWS

Meanwhile, there are applicants from FY 2014 who have completed the MEPS (medical/physical examination) and are deemed qualified, but are pending tattoo reviews by the Department of the Army. A decision is pending, although it could take months.

In April 2014, the Army changed its tattoo policy and this has affected many interested and ASVAB qualified young men and women in American Samoa. Tattoos below the elbows and knees are limited and have restrictions on them, i.e. tattoo band (tauvae or taulima) cannot be more than two inches wide. There is also a limitation on the number of tattoos people can have below their knees and elbows, and future soldiers must be able to cover these tattoos with their hand (fingers and thumb extended).

Any tattoos below the wrist bone (on hands or fingers) are unacceptable, regardless of what they are.

The Governor's Office has assisted the local Army recruiting station by providing a letter signed by the Lt. Governor (Interim Governor at the time), that explains our Samoan traditional tattoos (tatau and malu) and their significance in our culture.

The letter has been submitted through the Chain of Command with the hope that special consideration will be given with regards to the tatau and malu for those applicants who are otherwise qualified but have these tattoos.

"We do want to point out that interested people should not disqualify themselves and we advise them to come into our office at Laufou so we can make an accurate determination, based on current policy and regulation," SSG Laban-Ilalio explained.

More information on the US Army can be obtained by calling 699-3116 or visiting their office on the second floor of the Laufou Shopping Center in Nuuuli.

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