Local student attends USCG “mini boot camp”
A Nu’uuli Vocational Technical High School student got a “taste of military boot camp” after attending a camp sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard that is geared toward the candidate's interest in joining the Coast Guard or other branches of the US Armed Forces as a career choice.
Sione Lotolua Lousiale Kava III, known to his friends as Charley, will be a senior in the new school year, and he returned last week following his participation in the USCG 58th Annual Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) Program at New London, Connecticut. He was one of 500 students from across the country chosen from among thousands of applicants who applied for the USCG-AIM program.
This AIM program is a mini-boot camp that is given to potential and interested candidates of the USCG Academy to see if a career in the USCG the military is for them.
“I had my first taste of a military boot camp...the yelling from drill instructors, so many tasks, and so very little time to get them done, and there is no walking anywhere— you run everywhere,” he said, adding, "I have always had this dream to be a Marine, like my dad.”
Charley’s father is Sione Kava, a retired US Marine Corp Officer, and currently the Petroleum Officer with the ASG Office of Petroleum Management.
“After discussing my USCG AIM experience with my dad, he told me to multiply the challenges of USCG boot camp by 100 -and that is Marine Corps Boot Camp. I may have to reconsider my dream of being a Marine,” said the younger Kava, who applied for the USCG AIM program after meeting a recruiter from the USCG who visited the high schools in the territory last summer.
Lt. Erik Runyon, the previous supervisor of the USGC Marine Safety Detachment Unit in American Samoa said Charley is the first Samoan and one of very few Polynesians to apply to the AIM program.
"Charley is definitely the first from American Samoa who applied and was accepted to the AIM program. Charley is one of five from 500 candidates this year given a full scholarship worth close to $5,000 for travel, room and board and registration,” said Runyon, whose one-year deployment in the territory ended early this month.
According to Charley's father, "At this stage of my son's academic career development, and not unlike a lot of our local students, he is not too sure of the career path he will pursue after graduation in May of 2014 [but] I am spearheading the responsibility to push him to apply to any all potential career paths that are out there.”
Come May next year, Kava said, he’d rather see Charley turn down an option that is available, than for him to be interested in an option that is not available “either because we did not apply or were late in applying.”
“As a former Marine, I'd like to see my children venture into territory no Samoans or Tongans have gone before— or where most people in their right mind are scared to go,” said Kava. “I was the first Tongan Marine Corp Officer and I have heard of no other.”
“As an immigrant to the US, I am thrilled at so many opportunities available to my children that were not available to me and it has been my most important responsibility to assure that my kids are ready, willing and able to take advantage of these opportunities,” he said. “And if I may borrow from the Army—to be all all they can be."
"And I am speaking to all the young people of American Samoa", he added.
As to the best experience during his “mini-boot camp”, Charley said, “I can't believe how much I can do as an individual in so very little time. I believe I can accomplish all my VoTech class requirements for one day in two hours following the USCG routine, and learn to retain more.”
“I was forced to think, to manage my time wisely. I was also introduced to the fact that the USCG - and I believe that American Samoa and I guess the world - are looking for leaders, individuals who take the initiative to step up to the plate and lead,” said Charley. “I think a lot of us kids are so accustomed and comfortable just to settle back and wait to be asked. Our culture has something to do with relegating us to the ‘just be a follower’ role."
Upon graduation next year, Runyon recommends that Charley consider the USCG Academy as an option. "If Charley decides to attend the USCG academy and is accepted, he will be the first Samoan to attend", said Runyon.
Charley did share an interesting - and perhaps a little humorous - story of what happened when he was late getting to boot-camp, due to a flight delay out of Honolulu.
“I was a day late reporting to AIM and the drill instructor was yelling in my face during formation,” he recalled. “While others were sweating fear, I couldn't help but giggle. Unfortunately, my whole platoon ran for an hour to pay for that.”
“I explained to my drill instructor before I left that ’my grandfather and now my coach at VoTech yelled louder and more fierce than he did, and 'so you made me laugh’.”
Charley thanks God for His blessings, and he thanks Runyon and Captain Joanna Nunan, the former Honolulu USCG Captain of the Port for their support.
“Without you, I wouldn't have this opportunity,” he said and also thanked VoTech football coaches Rod and Bill Ena and wrestling coach Ethan Lake for preparing him physically. "And last but not least is my huge faamalo to my grandma, Tuitogamaatoe Puailoa Fanene for looking after me.”