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From American Samoa to Task Force Africa: A journey of leadership

kruse with group

TAMALE, Ghana — In a profession marked by dedication, resilience, and leadership, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Simeamativa "Pele" Kruse stands out for her exceptional service and unique heritage.

As the G1 chief of plans, programs & policies division for the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), Kruse's journey from American Samoa to a pivotal role at SETAF-AF is a testament to her commitment and the diverse fabric of the military community.

Born and raised in American Samoa, Kruse's early life was steeped in the rich cultural traditions of the Pacific Islands. Growing up in a close-knit community, she learned the values of family, respect and service, which would later shape her military career. Her heritage, deeply rooted in the islands, has been a source of strength and pride throughout her journey.

"I was once asked how we could preserve our cultural identity. The answer was not immediate to me at the time, but now, after 20 years since I left home, I can comfortably say that one can preserve their culture through the simple act of sharing," Kruse shared. "Through community engagement, whether in the workplace or with local communities, I have been fortunate to share my culture through storytelling, food and dance.”

“We celebrated my heritage, and in turn, I continue to preserve my cultural identity as a Samoan, but holistically as a Pacific Islander," added Kruse.

Kruse's military career began in 2005 when she was commissioned as an officer through Officer Candidate School. As the eldest daughter of five, she is the only one who chose a military career.

She deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan as a battalion S1, leading a staff of six personnel to conduct personnel service support in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Amidst the chaos of the unknown, her team shared their culture, breaking bread together with traditional comfort food and legends passed down through generations.

"Serving in the U.S. Army has been an incredible journey," Kruse said. "My Samoan heritage has been a guiding force, reminding me of the importance of community, resilience and dedication."

Today, Kruse serves as a key leader within SETAF-AF, overseeing critical plans, programs, and policies that support Army activities across Africa. Currently, she is part of African Lion 2024 (AL24), U.S. Africa Command’s premier, annual joint exercise aimed at enhancing readiness between the U.S. and partner nation forces. The exercise, taking place in Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia, includes more than 8,100 participants from over 27 countries.

"Being part of African Lion 2024 allows me to see firsthand the impact of our collective efforts. This exercise is crucial for building strong partnerships and enhancing our readiness. It's an honor to contribute to such a significant event, especially knowing that it supports peace and stability in the region," Kruse reflected.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Simeamativa Kruse the G1 chief of plans, programs & policies division for the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), poses for a photo during African Lion 2024 (AL24) in Tamale, Ghana, May 16. 2024. AL24 marks the 20th anniversary of U.S. Africa Command’s premier, joint exercise led by SETAF-AF, running from April 19 to May 31 across Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, with over 8,100 participants from 27 nations and NATO contingents. [photo:U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cade Castillo]


As the personnel officer in charge for the Ghana spoke of African Lion 2024, Kruse's key responsibilities include providing oversight of the personnel service support in Tunisia, Ghana and Senegal spoke locations.

"Personnel accountability is a leader’s priority, and I am capturing the tactics, techniques and procedures from the supporting human resource force package between the HR Company and the Regional Support Group that are supporting the exercise and advising them where needed," Kruse explained.

For Kruse, celebrating her heritage as a Pacific Islander is deeply meaningful.

"It is crucial to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage while serving in the military because the AAPI community tends to come together during this time of month with ideas to proudly share their culture," Kruse emphasized. "We have the opportunity to celebrate our cultural heritage through shared stories, cultural cuisine, traditional clothing display and dance."

Kruse's story is particularly significant during AAPI Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Her journey from American Samoa to a prominent leadership role in the U.S. Army exemplifies the spirit of this observance, highlighting the rich diversity and invaluable contributions of the AAPI community.

"As a Pacific Islander in the U.S. Army, I hope to inspire others from similar backgrounds to pursue their dreams and serve their country. Our heritage is a source of strength and resilience," Kruse said.

As the U.S. Army continues to evolve and adapt to new challenges, leaders like Kruse play a crucial role in shaping its future. Her dedication to service, combined with her deep connection to her cultural roots, serves as an inspiration to all who have the honor of serving alongside her.

"Every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to something greater than ourselves," Kruse concluded. "I'm proud to be part of this incredible journey and to represent my Samoan heritage within the U.S. Army."


2024 marks the 20th anniversary of U.S. Army Africa Command's premier and largest annual, combined, joint exercise African Lion. This year’s exercise will take place April 19 through May 31 and is hosted across Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia with more than 8,100 participants from over 27 nations and contingents from NATO. African Lion 24 focuses on enhancing readiness between the U.S. and partner nation forces.