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May 12 2022

Sergeant Sekonaia F.: Reaching out to the community has been my favorite part of this deployment

Sergeant Sekonaia Faaumu of the U.S. Washington State Army National Guard, Vehicle Commander and Unit Public Affairs Representative, enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Poland*

This is me

I am Sergeant Sekonaia T. Faaumu, from the U.S. Washington State Army National Guard. I serve with Bravo Company; 3rd battalion 161st Infantry Regiment apart of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Poland. This is my first deployment in the six years that I have been in the military. I was born in Tonga but was able to become a U.S. citizen through joining the Army National Guard. When I am out of uniform, you will catch me in the gym lifting weights or spending time with my family.
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"My goal is to better our NATO partnership," says SGT Faaumu.

This is my task

My current job within the Company includes a variety of things. I am a STRYKER vehicle commander where I work with my driver to ensure my vehicle remains fully mission capable conducting daily preventative maintenance checks and services, making sure my equipment is 100% ready to go. I also provide supporting fires while maneuvering a squad of infantry men on to their objective. As a Vehicle Commander (VC) I assist the Platoon leadership with establishing routes and going over mission plans with my fellow Vehicle Commanders. In addition to commanding a vehicle I am also the Company's UPAR (Unit Public Affairs Representative) where I work with my Battalion Public Affairs Office and our linguists playing part in one of my Battalion's missions—community outreach. In our outreach, I speak with a variety of people: mayors, sports club presidents, teachers and many other public figure heads, setting up community engagements with our Battlegroup soldiers and the local communities in Poland.

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Task Force "Dark Rifle" soldiers after removing an original 1945 barrier from a canal emplacing it in a museum for the town of Orzysz, Poland (Photo by SGT Joey Buslon)
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SGT Faaumu helping a child out of a vehicle while participating at a static display in Wydminy, Poland. Celebrating the end of the school year. Children that attended were given a chance to look at our vehicles and play a soccer match against the soldiers soldiers. (Photo by SGT Joey Buslon)

This is what makes my job special

Reaching out to the community has been my favorite part of this deployment. I have had the opportunity to work with other Allied partners including Croatian, United Kingdom, Romanian and Polish militaries. Together, we have had the opportunity to meet multiple mayors within north-east Poland, local Polish citizens and more!

The amount of thankfulness that comes from our Polish friends is very heart-warming. It makes me very proud as a person and as a soldier to be able to conduct these types of engagements with the community.

Especially when the locals state that our Battlegroup is the first group ever get this involved within their community. For example, every year the town of Orzysz does a cleanup of their canal removing bricks and debris from buildings that were destroyed in World War II. Community members of Orzysz, alongside their union of firefighters, come together for this cleanup. Our Battlegroup was the first to ever be a part of this event. The mayor and the community were so thankful, he even came down and personally shook the hands of each soldier who took part in this.

Our soldiers also got to tour the local fire house and had the opportunity to meet some the firefighters while attending at a bonfire event afterwards with the people of Orzysz. We continue to do engagements like this coming together as one with the Allied NATO nations and the people of Poland to build unity amongst each other.

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"My company commander has a quote that has greatly impacted my mission in Poland: >>Continue to show uncommon excellence amongst those that are already uncommon<<"

These are my plans

My plans for the remainder of our mission will continue to be the same. I want to continue our community outreach, working in more ways than one to build lasting relationships and trust that will progress even beyond this rotation. My goal is to better our NATO partnership because we are stronger together. When I return to Washington state, I plan on applying for an Active Group Reserve position and progressing further into my military career by working full time. I have learned a tremendous amount being in the role of a VC and UPAR. This knowledge will help me on a personal and professional level. My Company Commander, Captain Trey Botten, has a quote that has greatly impacted my mission here in Poland and one that will forever stick with me, it is:  "Continue to show uncommon excellence amongst those that are already uncommon."

* This article was written during SGT Faaumu's deployment to Poland (June 2021-February 2022). The U.S. Army soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment "Dark Rifles", Washington Army National Guard, formed the core of the eFP Battlegroup in Poland.

Story by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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