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Samoan Soldier continues legacy of service supporting TRADEWINDS 24

Pfc. Sabrina Vimoto with her father Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto

Paragon Base, BARBADOS — Staff Sgt. Sabrina Vimoto, a platoon sergeant with the Signal Detachment, Group Support Battalion, 7th Group Special Forces Group, readied her Soldiers and equipment in preparation for TRADEWINDS 24 (TW24).

As she awaited the arrival of her team, Sabrina reflected on her heritage, her experiences as an Army child, the tragedy of losing a sibling in combat, and serving as a Soldier under her father’s leadership.

Sabrina, born in Honolulu, was forged from a family of leaders.

But her family’s history of U.S. military service and leadership began with her father’s legacy of service.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto, who was raised in Utulei, joined the Army Nov. 5, 1981, and moved through the ranks to hold every position of a noncommissioned officer (NCO), from team leader to International Joint Command Sergeant Major.

Isaia’s service inspired Sabrina and her brother, Timothy, to follow in his footsteps.

“My older brother and I had a plan to join the Army right when we graduated high school, but he was 18 months older than I, so he got his chance first,” said Sabrina. “He joined as an 11B, infantryman, went to Airborne School, and joined the 173rd Airborne Brigade, where my dad was deployed to Afghanistan as the brigade command sergeant major.”

Sabrina said her brother and father arrived in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, May 2007. Only a few weeks after arriving, on June 5, 2007, Pfc. Timothy Vimoto was killed in action on Hill 1705 during an ambush on his position.

It was his first firefight.

Under the guidance of Isaia’s commander, he exited the combat theater to attend his son’s memorial service in Vicenza, Italy.

Sabrina said he was adamant to go back and join his troops in battle.

In an article written in 2016, Isaia said that the Soldiers he led reminded him of his son, and he pledged to take care of them as the senior enlisted leader of the brigade..

Sabrina recounted her father mentioning that his Soldiers needed him as much as he needed them, but his Family didn’t understand his reasoning.

“Me and my siblings thought, you know, ‘He doesn’t want to be here with us,’” Sabrina said. “But knowing what I know now, as a Soldier, I think he didn’t want my brother to die in vain. Him returning to battle after such a personal and tragic event would send a message to his Soldiers.”

After her brother’s death, Sabrina and her Family decided it was best for her not to join the military.

Sabrina instead attended college, but she said military service remained in her mind.

As her father’s retirement approached and he was set to deploy one last time, she came home to spend Thanksgiving with her Family.

“We were sitting at the table, eating our Thanksgiving meal, and I just blurted out, ‘how cool would it be if I joined the Army and deployed with you?’” Sabrina recounted with a chuckle. “Everyone at the table, all my Family, was talking about how cool that would be, but my dad didn’t really say anything.”

But after a few weeks, her father blessed off on her decision, so she finished her exams that semester, loaded up her car and headed to Fort Liberty, where her father was stationed.

In August 2013, she enlisted as a 25L, cable systems installer-maintainer.

After completing basic combat training, advanced individual training, and airborne school, she joined her father at XVIII Airborne Corps, where he was the senior enlisted advisor of the corps.

She deployed with her dad only a few months after arriving at the unit.

She said that serving in the organization where her dad was the highest ranking enlisted Soldier was both comforting and challenging.

“Having my dad there with me in a war zone was a safeguard, a blanket, and it was pretty comforting,” remembered Sabrina. “But it was hard making friends because people knew that my dad was the sergeant major of the corps and I noticed there was a perception that I was a daddy’s girl.”

She said she had to beat the negative perception through her technical proficiency and work ethic.

“Once I got to work, showed my work ethic and just did what you’re supposed to do as a Soldier, I think I earned the last name of Vimoto and was accepted on my team,” she said proudly.

That last name that she wears proudly on her chest gets recognized from time to time.

“People will look at my name on my uniform and then look at me, and I can see it on their face that they knew my dad,” said Sabrina with a prideful smile. “One Soldier, she spoke about my dad and how inspirational he was to her. When I hear those things, now that I’m mid-career and he’s been out for a couple of years, it impacts how I want to lead, and to know that he's made such an impact that people still remember something he did or said is pretty cool.”

One Soldier that has had the opportunity to serve with the father-daughter duo in the XVIII Airborne Corps is Sgt. 1st Class Javier Rodriguez. Rodriguez is also Sabrina’s current first-line supervisor and is with her here in Barbados.

“When I served under Command Sgt. Major Vimoto, he exuded what a senior leader is and his presence was one of those NCOs where Soldiers would gravitate toward him because he was approachable,” recalled Rodriguez. “When you meet someone like that, it sets a standard of the leader you want to emulate, and he was one of the best NCOs I’ve seen in the Army.”

He said Sabrina was cut from the same cloth as her father.

“I first received her as a private first class at XVIII Airborne Corps, and you can tell that her father mentored her through her career because she has constantly strived toward the next step or challenge,” claimed Rodriguez. “She has the same type of presence her father did even as a young staff sergeant and she will probably, and deservingly, be the next sergeant major Vimoto.”

Sabrina said that she wants to continue her father's legacy as a leader and her brother’s legacy as a hero, but she also wants to write her own story in the Army.

“Just like my father was known as the father of the XVIII Airborne Corps, my Soldiers call me

‘Momma V’ because I’m their platoon sergeant, and I take care of them,” said Sabrina with a smile. “It doesn’t matter if you're my Soldier or not, I try to empower all the people in my life.”

She ended with a message she often gives to her Soldiers.

“Don’t do anything to disgrace the name that is on your chest, because the best job is the one you have with the people you have it with,” stated Sabrina. “The real measure of success lies in the positive impact on the situation and the lives we have in our immediate vicinity. Never underestimate the influence you have on the world and remember the power you wield to change your surroundings.”