Island music, traditional dances and feasting on roasted pig were a few of the things guests experienced at the Asian Pacific Celebration. On May 29, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, held a luau to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage month. The theme for this observance was “Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion.”
Guests were able to kick back and relax as members of “Alo o Samoa” (Samoan descendants) took them on a journey through the Pacific Islands by performing traditional dances. The celebration showcased the Pacific Island cultures and traditions from the islands of Samoa, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti and Tonga.
When assigned to 3rd BSTB, Staff Sgt. Jeannie Tauala, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the personnel shop and a native of Samoa, went into planning mode for Asian Pacific Month.
“This event means a great deal to me,” said Tauala. “Upholding, teaching and showcasing my culture from the island of Samoa is something that I hold true and dear to my heart.”
With support from Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew McCoy, command sergeant major, 3rd BSTB, and the BSTB Family, Tauala formulated a plan to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage month.
To convey the true essence of the islands, she enlisted the help of Alo o Samoa to capture the true beauty of the islands through dance.
Alo o Samoa performed multiple dances such as: “Pualena” (Hawaii Hula), New Zealand Haka, “Ho Mai NA” (Tongan dance), “Mamalu O Samoa” (Samoan dance) and “E Tasi Ae Lasi” (Samoan partner dance) to name a few.
Alo o Samoa comprises of Soldiers, civilians and Family members who live in the Fayetteville area. The group dedicated countless hours over a three month period to prepare for the show.
Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia T. Vimoto, XVIII Airborne Corps’ command sergeant major spearheads the group by hosting gatherings quarterly so that the members can dance, eat their native foods and enjoy fellowship with one another.
As the guest speaker, Vimoto spoke of the great sacrifices and dedication that many Asian Pacific islanders have given to our country.
“For generations, Asian American-Pacific islanders have dedicated their lives to developing and defending the heritage of our country,” said Vimoto. “Their perseverance in the pursuit of opportunity and equality helps shape our identity, ensure our progress, and safeguard the success of future generations.”
Before the show began, the unearthing of the pigs that had been prepped and placed in the ground for about eight hours, was quite the display. Around the “umu” (underground oven), a group of men began peeling back the layers of newspaper and rocks before unveiling the foil covered pigs.
With the look of pride while wearing traditional grass “kikis” (skirts), male members of Alo o Samoa proudly carried the pigs to the festivities, where they were taken out, unwrapped and prepared for the feasting.
Along with the food and dance, were tent displays from the different Pacific islands. Each tent was decorated in the island style with their own identity and story that represented the Asian Pacific culture.
Paratroopers from 3rd BSTB represented each tent superbly by detailing the history of the island as well as the famous people who hailed from the island.
Many Soldiers expressed their gratitude to Tauala for sharing and teaching her culture to them.
“A paratrooper just told me that he has been stationed here at Fort Bragg for eight years and has never seen nor experienced anything like our performance today,” said Tauala.
Not only was this a celebration of a beautiful culture, but it was the first time Tauala and her children have ever danced together.
“Being in the military, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in various places around the world, Korea, Germany, Hawaii, Iraq, Afghanistan and now here at Fort Bragg,” said Tauala. “My kids and I have never danced together until today and I will cherish these moments and have this memory with me always.”