Deployed Forces: Polynesians with TF Wings host Asian-Pacific celebration in Iraq

| June 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

A group of Task Force Wings Soldiers perform songs accompanied by ukulele during Task Force Wings’ luau-themed Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month celebration that featured traditional dance, song and food at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, last month.CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq — Dance is a form of cultural expression. 

Like visual art, sculpture or architecture, dance encapsulates, reinforces and transmits cultural traditions and values. 

The diversity of Asian-Pacific American culture was on display as a group of more than 30 Task Force Wings Soldiers and other volunteers celebrated Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with a performance of traditional dance, song and food, here, recently.

The annual observance commemorates the contributions of people of Asian-Pacific Islander descent in the United States. 

In 1978, Congress passed a joint Congressional Resolution to commemorate Asian-American Heritage Week during the first week of May. This date was chosen to coincide with two significant anniversaries: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America, May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by mostly Chinese laborers, May 10, 1869. 

Congress later voted to expand Asian-American Heritage Week in 1990 to a monthlong celebration. In 1992, the month of May was permanently designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

TF Wings’ luau-themed celebration was replete with Hawaiian décor, traditional dishes, such as kalua pig, and a variety of traditional Polynesian music and dance. 

According to Sgt. Taimi Taala, a native of Samoa and human resource specialist with Headquarters and Support Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, TF Lobos, the observance performers hailed from several Polynesian islands, and even India, with a dance performed by 1st Lt. Puja Ghosh, chemical officer and medical platoon leader, HSC, 209th ASB, TF Lobos.

“‘Polynesian’ is a term commonly used to describe a large grouping of over 1,000 islands scattered throughout the central and southern Pacific Ocean that share similar traits, including culture, language and beliefs,” Taala said. 

“The performers hail from all over Polynesia and, as a result, we performed several different dances from several different island cultures,” Taala added. “Some of those dances were the Haka, a traditional dance form of the Maori of New Zealand, the Tahitian O Tea, and the Sasa and Faataupati, both traditional Samoan dances. 

“This was our way of showing how important tradition and family is to us,” Taala continued. “Where we are from, family is everything, and we are always doing everything as a family. This event hopefully helps others understand that about Pacific Island culture.” 

Capt. Marie Slack, battalion adjutant, Headquarters and Headquarters  Co., 2nd Bn., 25th Avn. Regiment, TF Diamond Head, and Sgt. 1st Class Punipuao Tuatoo, petroleum supply specialist and distribution platoon sergeant, Co. E, 2-25th Avn. Regt., TF Diamond Head, both performed at the celebration. 

Both Soldiers hoped to convey a sense of family and fun to those in attendance.

“I love sharing my culture with people,” said Slack, a native of Hawaii with family originating from Samoa. “The whole spirit of Polynesia is about family, being happy and sharing that happiness with others. 

“I hope that, when people see us celebrate our culture, they take away the spirit of Polynesia,” Slack continued. “They see the joy and the fun atmosphere that we carry with us wherever we go.” 

Tuatoo, a native of American Samoa, agreed.

“We Polynesians love to entertain. I enjoy seeing fellow Soldiers participate in our celebration with a curiosity to learn about our culture, and hopefully they left understanding how important our culture and our family traditions are to us,” Tuatoo said.

More than 200 Soldiers, Airmen, civilian contractors and others attended TF Wing’s celebration and, by all accounts, it was an experience they will not soon forget.  

“I really enjoyed today’s celebration, especially all of the different types of dances,” said Pfc. Tiffany Gordon, paralegal specialist, HHC, 25th Combat Avn. Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, TF Wings. “The Army is so diverse, and for that reason, it’s especially important to host these types of events.”

Category: Deployed Forces, News

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