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He aims to give back

Amanave native Ryan Taifane (center) with local US Army recruiters SFC Kenny Tran and 1SGT Josh Polonowski after Taifane was officially sworn in at the Konelio Pele Army Reserve Center earlier this month. Taifane is the first Samoan in five years to be sworn in locally as an officer candidate. [photo: LF]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — At 27, Ryan Taifane has his life plan laid out. And in less than two months, he will be tackling his first hurdle: boot camp.

The future military officer told Samoa News yesterday that his goal is "to go off island and make something of myself - do something that matters."

A 2008 graduate of Leone High School, Taifane became the first person in five years to be sworn in, locally, as an officer candidate. The momentous occasion took place at the Konelio Pele Army Reserve Center in Tafuna earlier this month, in the presence of his family and friends.

Over a telephone interview with Samoa News yesterday, the Amanave resident said he would be departing the territory in April, heading to Fort Leanord Wood, Missouri for basic military training. Afterwards, he will move on to Fort Benning, Georgia for Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

From there, Taifane will be shuffled to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and then branch training where he will receive orders for his new assignment.

There's so much training and schooling involved in the process of pursuing his dreams but Taifane is ready to take on the challenge. "I want to grow as a person, using the military to get it done," he said. "The ultimate goal is to come back home and give back to the island."

In prepping himself mentally and physically for military life, Taifane has been spending quality time with his wife, Ellison Moliga and their three children: Susana, Matthew, and Ryan.

In addition, he has also been working out, training, and he's even gotten himself into bodybuilding.

When asked if being a military service member is something he always wanted to be, Taifane giggled and revealed that he had originally planned to join the US Marine Corps straight out of high school but "my mom said no, go to college first."

Taifane did as he was told. After high school, he attended the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in 2011. He went on to the University of Hawaii, Manoa and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree program in kinesiology from UH Hilo last year.

Taifane was able to complete all three kinesiology concentrations: sports medicine and therapy; health promotion; and exercise science.

He aspires to someday get his masters degree in the same field and even become certified so he can return home and help the local community.

"There's a lot of potential here but no certified trainers to show kids how to do it, what to eat, how to work out," he said, adding that one of the things he has in mind is to return home and possibly work for the VA (Veterans' Affairs) in the area of physical therapy.

Taifane is the fifth child of Niualama and the late Apefa'i Taifane of Amanave and Poloa. He has four brothers and two sisters, none of whom are in the military.

"This is special for me, because I am the first person in my immediate family to join the service," he shared.

Taifane is going in on active duty status and his initial contract is for 8 years.