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Col. Tavai inducted into Army Ordnance Hall of Fame

Col. Tavai’s family
Source: Uifa’atali Amata's D.C. staff press release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is congratulating the Chief of Staff of her congressional office, in Washington D.C, retired Col. Leafaina Tavai, for her recent induction into the Army Ordnance Hall of Fame.

Amata said, “Whether you know her as Ina, or Chief, or Colonel, with this induction into the Army Ordnance Hall of Fame, she has a doubly historic place in our islands.

“She is the very first of our people to attend and graduate any of the nation’s prestigious service academies, in her case West Point. Now, she leads our effort to help many others from our islands follow her footsteps to a service academy.”

Tavai said, “I’m so thankful to God, the love and support of my family, all of American Samoa, and the many great soldiers I served with over 25 years.

“This ceremony meant so much to me, but our family deeply missed our parents, making it an emotional day. This honor was for them and all the sacrifices they made to give our family a better life and future. My dad HC Vaiki Tavai always told me to never do anything to embarrass our family name; if I do, don’t ever come back home! I’ve always kept that close to my heart and did everything with our family name and American Samoa in mind. Dad, Mom, I hope I’ve made you proud. Thank you from my heart to all of American Samoa.”

Leafaina Tavai is from Gataivai, American Samoa, the daughter of the late High Chief Atiumaletavai Kaleopa Vaikī Tavai and the late High Talking Chief Feagaimaali’i Lauolive To’omalatai Tavai. She graduated from Samoana High School and left the islands for the first time to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, New York where she graduated in 1989 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps. 

She was the first from American Samoa to be nominated by our Member of Congress (Honorable Fofo Sunia) to the military academies and the first to graduate from West Point.

She served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 2014, including three combat deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom. She commanded at every level from company to brigade during her career including commanding a battalion for 15 months in combat.

COL (R) Tavai was the first Samoan on active duty to be selected for promotion to colonel below-the-zone and selected for brigade command. She retired from the Army in 2014 and is currently serving as the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata, in Washington D.C.

COL (R) Tavai was the first Samoan to be selected and was inducted into the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame, Class of 2024 on May 6, 2024, at Fort Gregg-Adams (formerly Fort Lee), Virginia.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an Executive Master’s in business administration degree (EMBA) from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

 Her military education includes The Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, the Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College. Her awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Global War on Terrorism Medal (Expeditionary and Service), and the Iraq Campaign Medal.

In 2014, when Amata was first elected, Colonel Tavai was retiring from her 25-plus years of service to the United States in uniform. She has served as Chief of Staff for the congressional office since day one, which will be ten years in a few months.

Amata concluded, “She’s retired from the Army but still a credit to the uniform every day, a person of strength, integrity, leadership, kindness and much more. We love you and could not be prouder of you, Colonel.”