9th MSC reservists honored for last year’s tsunami efforts

| October 8, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Christina Douglas
9th Mission Support Command Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Michele Compton (left), commanding general, 9th MSC, congratulates Capt. Fouvale Asiata, 127th Chaplain Detachment, during the Humanitarian Service Medal presentation, Sept. 29, at the U.S. Army Reserve Center. Asiata was awarded the HSM for providing disaster-relief efforts during the 2009 tsunami in American Samoa.PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — On the morning of Sept. 29, 2009, four massive waves ripped through the hearts and homes of local communities throughout the island of Tutuila, here. 

“I won’t forget that day. I had never seen something like that before – not in my whole life,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tata Aga, a reservist from the 9th Mission Support Command, who had just returned from a yearlong deployment, a few weeks prior. 

Aga’s two-bedroom, shoreline home lay in ruins. There was no power, no potable water and only enough food to last a few days. 

While combing through the wreckage where his house once stood, Aga came across his ocean-soaked uniform and laid it out to dry. 

Just days after the devastating tsunami had left 34 dead, Aga teamed up with neighbors to care for those in need. Donning his uniform, Aga left his own disaster area and went into the Army Reserve Center to assist with organizing disaster-relief efforts to help out the most critically-affected villages.

He was just one of the 49 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 9th MSC who were honored in a Humanitarian Service Medal Award presentation, Sept. 29, at the Sgt. 1st Class Pele Army Reserve Center, here. 

The HSM is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who distinguish themselves by meritorious participation in a Department of Defense-approved significant military act or operation of a humanitarian nature. 

American Samoa Lt. Gov. Faoa Sunia, the ceremony’s guest speaker, said the Soldiers were heroes in his mind. 

“Support came so quickly that the citizens almost didn’t have time to mourn,” he said. “All you had were your hands and your kind hearts … on behalf of the people of the community, we are very grateful.”

During the ceremony, 9th MSC reservists from 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment; 411th Engineer Bn.’s Forward Support Company; Theater Support Group; and 127th Chaplain Detachment were recognized for providing disaster-relief efforts immediately following the tsunami.  

Roughly one-third of the Soldiers who provided the disaster-relief efforts had homes that suffered significant damage or had been completely destroyed. But despite their losses, these Soldiers persevered, said Brig. Gen. Michele Compton, commanding general, 9th MSC.

They did what needed to be done to help others. They carried on, placed the mission first and didn’t quit, she said. Reservists looked for survivors, cleared debris and offered a hand wherever they could.

Following the 8.3-magnitude earthquake that resulted in the devastating tsunami waves, Soldiers from the 9th MSC sprung into action to support their brothers and sisters in the military and the local American Samoan community. 

As the first U.S. federal responders, 9th MSC was the lead in reporting to U.S. Army-Pacific, and transformed the U.S. Army Reserve Center in American Samoa — Tutuila’s only standing federal military installation — into a hub for all military responders. 

During the days of relief assistance that followed, the Soldiers also supported Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross missions, and they moved critical supplies to villages that were hit the hardest. 

Further, Soldiers continued to provide search and recovery operations, give medical care to civilians and conduct massive debris removal across Tutuila.

Category: Community Relations, News

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