By Staff Sgt. Christopher McCulloughJune 19, 2017
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - In observance of the Army's 242nd birthday, and 119 years presence in the Pacific, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii and U.S. Army Pacific celebrated with a luau, June 16 at Weyand Field, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The luau was a fun way of getting Soldiers and family members together while experiencing some of the local culture.
"Some years we celebrate with a ball that doesn't include families, and sometimes it's not that exciting," said Gen. Robert B. Brown, USARPAC commanding general. "It's much better here at [Schofield Barracks] to celebrate with families in a great Hawaiian tradition with a world-class luau."
The luau began at 5 p.m. and rolled into more formal festivities that began with a traditional Polynesian dance followed by the presentation of the Mana O Ke Koa 'Spirit of The Warrior' Award.
The Mana O Ke Koa honors individuals who have distinguished themselves by their steadfast support of Soldiers, their Families, and the Army community. The award was established by USARPAC in June 2007, coinciding with Fort Shafter's the centennial celebration.
This year's award was presented to the late Mark Takai, who was not only a member of the state Legislature for 20 years before winning election in 2014 to the U.S. House, but a Soldier himself for over 17 years in the Hawaii Army National Guard before losing his battle with cancer in 2016.
"I can't think of any individual who is more deserving of this award," Brown said. "Congressman Takai was a tremendous role model of helping the military and that's what this award is all about."
Takai's spouse, Sami Takai, was on hand to represent her husband. Ms. Takai addressed the crowd of over 3,000 attendees about the significance of the evening's event, and how honored she was to accept this in her husband's memory.
"He would've been extremely proud and humbled to be in such great company as those who have received this award before him," said Ms. Takai. "As a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, a state legislator, and a U.S. Congressman, Mark was always a strong and steadfast supporter of the military. His life was built around his desire to serve and he served his community, his state and his country with a passion and with Aloha ... We humbly thank you for allowing him to live on by remembering him and honoring him tonight."
Following the Mana O Ke Koa award presentation was the recognition of all Best Warrior Competitors and announcement of the Best Warrior Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Awards were then presented to the USARPAC Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year after a weeklong Best Warrior Competition. The 25th Infantry Division was awarded both first place honors. Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Garcia, and Spc. Hazen Ham, both currently with the Tropic Lightning Division, will represent USARPAC at the Department of the Army-level Best Warrior Competition in October.
Second place honors were awarded to USARPAC Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Agngarayngay, for NCO of the Year, while second place Soldier of the Year was awarded to Spc. Thomas McDonald with 8th Theater Sustainment Command. Both Soldiers are from Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
Third place honors for NCO of the Year were awarded to U.S. Army Alaska's own Sgt. Brent D. Nichols, while third place honors for Soldier of the Year was awarded to Spc. Patrick J. Saladino, who represented 8th Army, Republic of Korea.
The formal portion of the luau concluded with the traditional cake cutting. Representing the past, present, and future successes of United States Army Pacific was: Brown, the command's most senior commissioned officer, who also represented the most senior Army Soldier; Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert, USARPAC's senior enlisted leader; the command's youngest Soldier, Pvt. 1st Class Michael Rankin from the 25th Infantry Division.