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“GO FOR BROKE” IN BALIKATAN 2012

Dear Editor,

The 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry has as their unit patch the torch of liberty. Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd President, famously said that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. Now, more than ever, the most decorated battalion in United States Army, of which two of its companies call American Samoa home, needs such patriots to replenish her ranks.

Many consider the infantry the last military occupation of choice and in many ways that is understandable. The physical endurance and mental resolve that one must summon in order to complete the training and perform on the job can intimidate even the most daring amongst us. Moreover, being on the front lines quickly brings into focus the sobering reality that “to serve” means that you may have to pay the ultimate sacrifice for your fellow countryman’s freedoms.

But the greatest obstacle that I see keeping our citizens from making such an honorable commitment is an unfounded stigma. Because the Army doesn’t require infantry applicants to score high on the ASVAB, many take that to mean that the intelligence of your standard-issued grunt or the skill set he obtains from his craft is anything but inspirational – let alone useful to pursuing a career outside of the military.  

I have just had the honor of serving with our brothers and sisters from 100th Battalion during the annual Balikatan war games in the Philippines, held this year from 16 to 27 April. What I witnessed out there was the exact opposite of any misconception one may have of the Infantry. Our men and women (in Bravo, Charlie and 740th companies) made us proud with their perseverance, commitment to duty, honor, character, courage and wit. 

In each phase of the exercise’s planning and execution and at every echelon of leadership, I was proud to see Samoans stand their ground, being decisive, respectfully ask questions and lead from the front as well as follow with loyalty.

It was a visual confirmation that everything that we do in the Army comes down to one mission: readying boots on the ground with rifles in hand to fight and win this nation’s wars. No future technology or advanced weaponry can ever serve as adequate substitution for our Infantrymen. That’s just the bottom line.

If folks out there believe that rocks can do this mission or that the skills and experience one acquires from fulfilling this mission cannot translate into a private sector career, they are truly mistaken.

I got to watch our boys execute the highest doctrinal form of the decision making process in the Army (MDMP) in order to accomplish their mission – and the infantry does the MDMP perhaps more frequently and with more consequence than any other branch. I was blessed to see our infantry commanders and non-commissioned officers translate concepts on paper to actual movements on the ground using their troop leading procedures. Our Soldiers questioned their leaders until the concept of operations was crystal clear and/or refined. And after a long night’s mission, they fought through exhaustion, broken ankles and hairline fractures in order to get through their after action reviews with their uniforms soaked in sweat and boots caked in mud. Then they consolidated their gear, reorganized before pushing through another long night of maneuvers. 

Presidents were born of the infantry. CEOs throughout the country have their roots in and owe their success to the infantry. So do many legislators, lawyers, law enforcement officers, business owners and many other folks in all walks of life. After Balikatan, I now realize why.

We also have many successful citizens and leaders of our own in our great territory who have now retired as Infantrymen and pursued careers in other fields. We don’t have to look beyond our shores for role models who serve as testaments to what a commitment to the Infantry can mean for our volunteers.

As we continue to remember and honor all of Samoa’s sons and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice, let us never forget that freedom is not free. That the cause of liberty is worthy of our best and brightest and all that we can give in her defense.

When our boys arrived, formed up and marched in cadence with Samoan verses as the wind carried their tunes throughout the camp, one could not help but hear a whisper, “the Samoans are here”. Our Philippine Army counterparts were as impressed with their physical size as they were with their spiritual hearts, full of our culture carried all the way from home.

They have done an outstanding job, from our cooks to supply sergeants to our grunts. They should be proud of themselves for a job well done.

God Bless America and American Samoa!

“GO FOR BROKE!”

CPT Satele, Talifaitasi



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