FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 18, 2018) -- "Talofa" is the way people often greet each other in the Samoan language, and a loud and hearty one was extended to all the Fort Drum community members attending the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance on May 16 at the Commons.

Traditional to this celebration, attendees were treated to cultural music and dance performed by the Mabuhay Filipino-American Club of Northern New York and the Toa o Samoa dance group, which is comprised of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers and Family Members.

Cpl. Naomi Sautia-Pomele served as guest speaker at the observance. Sautia-Pomele, executive assistant to the commander of the 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, is a native of American Samoa and spoke about the observance's theme "Unit Our Vision By Working Together."

"Unity is our strength," she said. "United we stand, divided, we fall. America was founded on the idea that, for many, we are one - a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is the rationale for inclusion."

Sautia-Pomele said that, as a country, it is important to reinforce values such as tolerance, inclusion and diversity - which unite people - and reject those that divide people, such as racism and bigotry.

She spoke of values that define the Samoan way and serve as the stronghold of Samoan culture such as family, respect and discipline.

"It is the iron grip of who we are as Samoans," she said. "Families are an integral part of the Samoan culture. Everything in the culture is thought of in terms of family rather than individuality. In a family is where respect and common courtesies, like the Army, is cultivated and developed."

Sautia-Pomele said that the whole family, to include extended family members, are involved in teaching respect that builds the foundation of family. Discipline, she said, is used to promote responsibility and comes in the form of teaching and guiding. When that fails, punishment is a third option.

"Through the various methods of discipline, I sure did learn fast, and so the respect and humility followed suit naturally," she said. "I look back now and appreciate those moments."

Sautia-Pomele said that faith is the beacon of Samoan culture.

"Every event and activity that we partake does not start or end without offering God prayers of thanksgiving and for the many blessings upon us," she said. "Through our faith, the Samoan culture prioritizes the importance of service, or doing for others rather than ourselves."

Sautia-Pomele said that there is a strong military tradition among the Samoan people because of their loyalty and sense of duty to America.

"Like our Samoan family culture, we extend our responsibility with respect for tradition of a nation and a greater cause because it is the Samoan way," she said.

Col. Shawn C. Schuldt, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade commander, thanked Sautia-Pomele and the performers for participating in the event and presented tokens of appreciation.

"Really, the gift was given to us today by sharing your heritage and your time with us," he said.