Cadet Asenati Petelo, of the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Hawaii, gave a lift to a Mongolian toddler as she was riding a camel while she was in Mongolia with the ROTCs Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program. The child was the son of the camel owner. [Photo: Tolliver]

Living in a tropical paradise doesn't mean you get to sit on the beach all day, relax and surf. Just ask Asenati Petelo.

Even if she wanted to, Petelo is too busy to spend much time on the beaches of Hawaii, where she lives and works, because in addition to working a full time job she is in the U.S. Army Reserve, attends the University of Hawaii, and is a member of its ROTC program.

And as a Cadet, Petelo said she spent part of her summer at Cadet Command's Leader Development and Assessment Course, and the rest in Mongolia with ROTCs Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program.

The mission to Mongolia was a regularly scheduled multinational exercise which included 12 countries. It is sponsored by the U.S. Army Pacific and hosted annually by the Mongolia Armed Forces.

"The CULP mission helped me understand how peacekeeping missions operate and also, how cultures come into contact with the peacekeeping missions," she explained.

The actual exercise provided an environment that exposed participants to different ways of conducting peacekeeping operations. As the fictionalized scenario evolved it was designed to challenge participants to consider potential situations that may otherwise be overlooked.

For her part, Petelo was assigned the role of Public Affairs Officer during the battalion-level staff exercise.

"I was the brigade PAO during this assignment", she said. "I made sure media releases were sent out to all battalions and ensured that all the media products published by each battalion were aligned with the brigade's key messages and themes."

She said that this was the first time she had ever briefed at this level, and she had never briefed anyone higher than a captain before.

Lieutenants don't get to brief at the brigade level, and captains do it rarely, but she said she learned a great deal from the experience.

"I was nervous and scared at the thought of it but my all my shop officers encouraged me and told me that I could do it," Petelo explained. "I learned that as an officer, you need to do your best to be creative and to hold the audience's attention. And I should also maintain eye contact with each battalion commander and make sure that they taking necessary actions in order to get the job done the right way.

"I (really) think that this type of training is useful for Cadets' because it helps build the Cadets' morale and confidence in leading others. It will definitely help develop the Cadets into becoming greater leaders."

Petelo said that overall her experience at the Khaan Quest 2012 was something she enjoyed and from which she learned much.

"I was fortunate to work with foreign officers from other different countries. At an early stage in my officer life I was also blessed to be exposed to the different duties and responsibilities at each level within the Army organization," she said. "I worked directly with a Marine brigade, an Alaska brigade and a Mongolian brigade. And I experienced the importance task of a PAO on the brigade level as I was the role player for this position."

CULP is designed to immerse ROTC cadets in various languages, cultures and socio-economic situations so the Cadets can learn, through personal experience, that cultures are different and building relationships is important.

Petelo thinks she has accomplished what CULP was designed to teach, and now she will go home and pass on what she has learned, both as a Soldier and a civilian.

Petelo, who has been an Army Reservist for six years, will graduate in December from the university, and from ROTC, and plans on staying in Hawaii.

"I asked my recruiter if I can get a recruiting slot so I can recruit for the program and tell prospects about my route," she explained. "I want to tell them about the options because I didn't know (about them). I also plan on using my degree to work in (finance), maybe bank operations management."

Deciding to enter the Army Reserve was an easy decision, said Petelo, who is originally from the Samoan Islands. She said that culturally she is from a place where family is important and she wanted to stay close.

"I am the first in the family to go to college-- I received a Guaranteed Reserve Force Duty scholarship--and it is good to have family support," she explained. "With that in mind, my younger sister is also in the program---I recruited her last semester. I love the experience and can stay close to home---Hawaii is home and it still within the island mode."

Petelo added that her parents are supportive of her decisions and as soon as she is done with her degree they are pushing her to get her masters.

"Whatever I learn from the military I can apply to my job," she said. "At the same time I am giving back to my community. I am not only serving my country but, (I'm) serving on the civilian side which (means I am) offering what I have l learned from school.

"The education is what the Army gave me and I am giving back. I think it is important to give back to the community, whether it is serving in the military full time, or serving on the civilian side."


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