Marine Recruiter sheds light on recruiting in America Samoa
By Sgt. Vanessa Jimenez
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | April 28, 2014
MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. --
MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Sgt. Kuuipo Trepanier is a Marine Corps canvassing recruiter with Recruiting Station Orange County, 12th Marine Corps District, but unlike the many Marines assigned to recruiting duty, she is located in American Samoa and is the first Marine recruiter there in approximately five years.
“I originally had no idea (American Samoa) was an option because they didn’t have a recruiter there for so long,” said Trepanier. “But, they told me to put in a request for it, and I got it, which was really exciting.”
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Samoa. It consists of five main islands, two coral atolls and is home to approximately 55,000 people.
While American Samoa is far from the continental United States, it is close to home for Trepanier. Trepanier, a switchboard operator by trade was raised in American Samoa.
“They were skeptical to send anyone out here, but I told them I wouldn’t have a problem because of my work ethic and because I grew up here,” said Trepanier. “I knew I’d be able to handle it. I guess they were being really selective because whoever came here was going to be so isolated.”
Though Trepanier is the only active duty Marine on the island, she is the face of history and a connection for the islanders.
During World War II the port of Pago Pago was a training and staging area for the Marine Corps. It was during this time American Samoans first enlisted in the Marine Corps.
According to www.nps.gov, the National Park Service website, the Samoan islands were an essential link in the chain of communications between the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, a sea lane that also ran through the Fiji Island. The loss of these islands would have effectively cut off communications between the west coast of the U.S. and Australia. The Samoan Islands played an important role by protecting these trade routes and to safeguard communication links to the south.
The islanders remember the importance their home played during the world war and remain proud of the connection. “The people there are very friendly, the teachers and staff of the schools are immensely supportive of the military,” said Master Sgt. David J. Griffin, 12th Marine Corps District Recruiting Station Orange County Assistant Recruiter Instructor. “Not only do you see Marine stickers everywhere, but you can tell they’re proud of their past and their ties with the Marines.”
“When I meet (an islander who served during WWII) he tells me about their history, and the kids growing up talk about how their family was a part of it,” said Trepanier. “I think the opportunity for young men and women to do something better needs to be available.”
Since arriving in American Samoa Trepanier had to overcome numerous obstacles that most recruiters might take for granted due to her remote location. American Samoa is located approximately 5,000 miles away from Recruiting Station Orange Counties’ headquarters and as a result, the processing of her applicants for entry into the Marine Corps is a challenge.
Unlike other recruiters, the Military Entrance Processing Station processing trips only occur once a quarter for Trepanier, according to Master Sgt. Jonathon Whitehouse, Pacific Assistant Recruiter Instructor. Therefore she’s on a quarterly mission versus the traditional monthly mission.
The quarterly mission does not allow her to process applicants quickly and therefore has to keep the applicant’s energy and interest high. She said it’s not too difficult though because most of them really look forward to enlisting in the Marine Corps.
Geographical location is one of the biggest physical obstacles, but she said there are many others. “It’s really trying to find the quality in these kids, but they’re out there. It’s just trying to pinpoint them. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack to find those qualified individuals.”
Finding applicants who can pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test is a challenge. At one point there were 80 students who took the ASVAB and less than 10 passed, but it’s something Trepanier can absolutely relate to.
“I was one of those kids who couldn’t pass the ASVAB, but it’s an experience I use to motivate and relate to the kids.”
This is mainly due to the difference in the educational system in American Samoa compared to the continental United Sates.
Before she even thinks about an applicant taking the ASVAB, she has to find them first, and without physical addresses, using traditional recruiting tactics such as home visits as part of her prospecting routine is out of the question.
“We have post office boxes here so it makes my prospecting a little different,” she said. Making phone calls, area canvassing and office traffic are where she finds her prospects.
Traditional area canvassing is also done a little differently on American Samoa where they are without locations a recruiter would normally prospect such as a mall or large shopping centers. The largest building on the island is only four stories high. However with the respect, support and existing strong ties with the Marine Corps on an island that’s only 52.6 square miles, she said she can visit the high schools whenever she likes, which enabled her to set some strong goals for herself.
“Right now because there are ten high schools I’d like to recruit one student from each and every high school before graduation in June,” she said. Another goal she set for herself is to enlist 100 applicants during her time at home in American Samoa.
With goals in place, obstacles scaled and processes refined, Trepanier is settling in for the long haul.
“I think this was my calling as far as a (secondary) billet goes because I’m home, and I get to do a lot of mentoring especially with the kids who I grew up with and just knowing the lifestyle here helps loads.”