By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)April 28, 2016
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Spc. Fesuiaigaomalofou "Ina" Liaina is accustomed to being part of a team.
As a former college and NFL fullback, he played before thousands of screaming fans.
Liaina said he felt pride when putting on a jersey for game days for almost six years. When his playing days were over, something was missing.
"I was missing the passion," Liaina said. He added the team aspect of having someone to watch your back and pick you up when you were down was also missing from his life.
So he decided to join America's team -- the U.S. Army.
Liaina, Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, is currently training to become a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialist.
Liaina was born in American Samoa, but spent the majority of his youth in California. He played rugby and volleyball, while growing up in Carson and Oxnard. He didn't start playing football until the eighth grade. Even then, he said he wasn't thinking about being a professional athlete. He wanted to serve in the military.
"I always wanted to be a Soldier, when I was younger," Liaina said. "I have an older brother in the military. I looked up to my older brother and wanted to follow him, but I picked up football. My whole life changed from there."
Playing football provided the opportunity to continue his education at San Jose State University where he earned a degree in heath sciences.
Following graduation, Liaina signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. He wasn't in Miami for very long before being released.
Liaina returned to San Jose to work as a financial advisor and insurance salesman. He said the job was not something he saw himself doing long-term.
"I'm social, but I'm not a people person," he said.
It wasn't long before Liaina was offered another opportunity to play football. This time in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
While at a work-out with some college teammates, the Green Bay Packers noticed his talents. They offered him a contract the next day, Liaina said.
After playing sparingly in preseason games, Liaina was again released.
He said he tried a few jobs working with children, but it was not for him.
"I couldn't work a regular job after going from a contact sport ... to (sitting at a desk)," Liaina said.
He said he wanted career options where he could get that contact and regain some of the pride of being a part of a team. He was considering becoming a police officer when his brother, Staff Sgt. Toloaí Sosene, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, reminded him of his desire to serve his country in the military.
"I thought about it for about a day, and I went to the recruiters office the next day," Liaina said.
With the prospect of football behind him, Liaina has set his sights on being the best Soldier he can be.
"There are a lot of things I want to do in the military," he said. "I want to go to Airborne School, Ranger School, if possible. I love it so far."
His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Devon Goodwin, calls him a quiet professional who does not like the spotlight.
"He kept (his football career) quiet for a while," he said. "It doesn't take much to motivate him, to get him to step up. I can see him being a great leader."
It's because of his leadership that Liaina has been assigned as a squad leader in Company B.
"I'm not a very outspoken person or outspoken leader," he said. "As a Soldier, I'm not going to yell and scream at you to do this, but I will try to do my best to follow the rules. I try to fix myself first, and then walk like a Soldier, move like a Soldier, act like a Soldier, so when other Soldiers look at me they can respect that. I just try to lead by example."
Soldiers in his squad say he is a calm and composed leader who they all look up to.
Liaina credits the leadership he has at 84th Chemical Battalion, specifically Goodwin and 1st Sgt. Jerry Wing, for setting the example of how to be an Army leader for him.
"It motivates me when I see leaders, like them, who lead by example," Liaina said. "They don't just tell you what to do; they actually do it with you. They are walking examples -- that's the type of leader I want to be."
Wing was humbled.
"As an NCO, I'm supposed to be the example and influence others to do the same," Wing said. "I'm glad he admires that and is wanting to incorporate (my leadership style) into his."
When Company B graduates, May 17, Liaina said it would be the beginning of what he hopes will be a long career.
"It feels great when I put on my uniform in the morning," Liaina said. "You are not just representing yourself, you are representing your last name, you are representing your Family, you are representing your battle buddies, you are representing your sergeant and you are representing the United States of America."