BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Lackland Air Force Base is worlds away from American Samoa, in more ways than one.
And for Senior Airman Desirae Faasavalu, she found a few of those differences right away.
“It was a huge culture shock, seeing all of the buildings and freeways and no greenery,” she said.
Faasavalu is a native of American Samoa, who left her island for the first time to travel to Air Force Basic Training in Texas. Despite being initially homesick, she soon adapted, and even thrived in her new setting. She started off with a strong performance in basic training, where she was named Honor Graduate for her flight.
“I persevered in basic training because I wanted to make my parents proud. They were my main motivation,” she said.
Coming from a family of five other siblings, she wanted to get an education and better herself.
“Besides Air Force training, I have already completed my Community College of the Air Force degree, am working on my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, and would like to go on to get a master’s,” said Faasavalu.
Following basic training, Faasavalu continued her military training, and was assigned to the Force Support Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. She is currently deployed to Bagram as a member of the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team, where she is in charge of waivers and extensions.
Early in her career, Faasavalu was selected to perform as a vocalist with the Air Force’s premier Tops In Blue touring ensemble. She spent a year with the program, traveling around the United States and Europe, performing for Service members. In addition to her singing, she enjoys dancing and playing musical instruments.
When not busy processing passengers arriving at or departing Bagram, she volunteers as the public affairs representative for the Airmen Committed to Excellence group on base, where she helps to tell the story of the Airmen at Bagram.
Faasavalu said that she is the first of her family to join the military, and is proud that she can help to support her family in American Samoa, where her father is the High Talking Chief for their village, Nu’uuli. He is the liaison between the villagers and the governor in important matters. Even with her family’s prominent position on the island, she saw how her parents struggled trying to send her older brother and sister through college.
“If I could help my parents and take away that burden for them, I knew that I wanted to help,” she said.
She is also very proud of her heritage, and enjoys talking about it when possible.
“I love representing our Polynesian culture. Everyone should be prideful and love where they come from. If there’s one thing about me that people know, it’s how much I love my culture.”