Hawaii servicemen take relief trip to American Samoa

Command Sergeant Major Iuniasolua Savusa
Command Sergeant Major Iuniasolua Savusa
Lt. Col. Rex Vanderwood
Lt. Col. Rex Vanderwood

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL)- About 100 Hawaii Army and National Guard members are headed to American Samoa. Early Wednesday afternoon, two C-17 cargo planes took off from Hickam Air Force Base on a six-hour flight to the disaster area. Officials are sending people and provisions to somehow help salvage American Samoa.

Snug and tight. That's how you pack for Pago Pago and isolated areas. Hawaii Army and National Guard member's prepare food, water, tents, generators and medical supply relief to the tsunami ravaged American samoa.

"There are a lot of people that are homeless right now, there are a lot of people without food," said Pacific Command Command Sgt. Major Iuniasolua Savusa.

"You really don't know what to expect," said Specialist Kalei Colburn.

The mission is two-fold.

"To be able to ascertain the situation and then to be able to provide the relief," said 15th Mission Support Group Lt. Col. Rex Vanderwood.

The eyes and ears of that effort will be search and rescuers like Kalei Colburn.

"Walking through neighborhoods looking for signs of life or maybe if someone needs help," said Colburn.

For Command Sergeant Major Iuniasolua Savusa, this is more than just a mission. On television, he saw that his family's home was hit hard by massive waves and hasn't heard from them.

"It home very very close," said Command Sgt. Major Savusa.

He remains strong for the task at hand. But sometimes even a heavy heart cracks through a hard shell.

"I don't want to get emotional over this, life will get better," said Command Sgt. Major Savusa.

With bags packed and C-17 jets set, army and national guard members embark on bringing desperately needed aloha to ailing American Samoa.

The federal and state disaster team is taking about 40,000 pounds of supplies on the trip. The recovery and relief operation will last up to four days.