41 members of American Samoa family are training at Fort Lee together
Fort Lee, VIRGINIA — Enlisting in the Army with a childhood friend or relative is a generations-old practice meant to bring familiarity and comfort to an experience fraught with stress and uncertainty.
So, does signing up with more than one recruit further ease the difficulties associated with initial military training?
The answer is an emphatic "yes" as it relates to members of a Samoan family with a decidedly large footprint here. There are 41 of them enrolled in various Sustainment Center of Excellence courses here, twisting the old adage "strength in numbers."
"This is good for us," said 30-year-old Army Spc. Joseph Tauiliili, assigned to Papa Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, and the oldest among relatives in various stages of advanced individual training. "We come from American Samoa, and we're basically thousands of miles away from home. Seeing them by my side keeps me motivated every day."
The Samoans in training here -- first, second, third and fourth cousins —hail from Poloa and alll are related to the same. Their decision to join in close proximity was partly based on strong familial and cultural ties, said Army Pvt. Siiva Tuiolemotu, assigned to Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.
"We wanted to stick together in training," the 20-year-old said, noting her country's communal culture.
American Samoa, which has struggled economically, boasts strong traditions of military service, Tuiolemotu said. In 2014, a local Army recruiting station was the most productive in the world, according to the Samoa News website. Still, kinship is what drives most to take the oath of service.
"The thing we care about is supporting our families," she said. "If that means [sacrificing] our lives, yes, we have to fight for them."
It also is legacy. Many of the soldiers are the latest to uphold family traditions.