Local ROTC graduates in Middle East awaiting war duty

At least five Waimea High School junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps graduates are among hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who are in the Middle East ready do disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, their former ROTC instructors say.

Stationed in Kuwait are Andrew Lundgren and Tobin Teruya, both 2001 Waimea High School graduates who joined the Marines.

Also in Kuwait are Army infantryman David Taniguchi, a 2001 Waimea High School graduate, and Ritchael Cariaga, a 2002 Waimea High School graduate.

The other Waimea High School graduate who is on his way to Kuwait is Army Lt. Michael Saulibio. After graduation from high school in 1998, Saulibio attended Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State on a four-year ROTC nursing scholarship and graduated recently.

In two weeks, Saulibio is to ship out from Fort Lewis in Washington state to a military field hospital in Kuwait.

To help the five Waimea High School graduates prepare for war, former high school mentors and other junior ROTC cadets at the high school have tried to boost their morale.

They have sent letters to them, talked with them by phone and sent clippings from The Garden Island about events on Kaua’i to “remind them of home,” according to First Sgt. Don Glover, a junior ROTC instructor at Waimea High School.

Glover and his boss, Maj. Victor Aguilar, have talked with the five either by phone or have heard about what they have been doing in Kuwait through the families of the former Waimea students.

Glover said he phoned Kuwait to speak with Taniguchi a month ago, and spoke with Cariaga on a call to Georgia two weeks ago before his deployment to Kuwait.

“They were upbeat, they miss home, they miss the food,” Glover said.

During conversations, Glover said he didn’t talk about the specifics of the mission of the soldiers. Because the calls, arranged through a military phone system, were kept short, they didn’t have much time to talk, he said.

“I didn’t want to distract them. I just told them to be safe and rely on their instincts to survive,” Glover said. ” I told them how proud we are of them. I wanted to be positive for them.”

Glover said he also told them, “stick to their training, we don’t need no heroes and come home alive.”

Army veteran Glover said it was the same advice his brother, a member of the Army’s 82 Airborne Division during the Korean War, gave him during a deployment to Haiti in 1995.

Glover said Taniguchi and Cariaga were top junior ROTC cadets. “Both were tops in physical training, mental challenges and everything,” Glover said. “They are up for it. The will do well over there. (There’s ) no doubt in my mind.”

Glover said junior ROTC cadets now enrolled at Waimea have sent letters to Taniguchi and Cariaga “so they don’t get homesick.”

The two young men are close, Aguilar said, noting that Cariaga left the Hawaii Army National Guard and joined the Army to “join his classmate, to join the same unit.”

The bond also has been bridged between Glover and Taniguchi as well. Glover said Taniguchi spent the last July 4th with his family in North Carolina.

“Davin’s family, who live in Waimea Valley, have treated me very well. So I reciprocated (by inviting Taniguchi to spend a holiday with his family in the Mainland).”

It is not known how long their deployment in Kuwait will be, but soldiers are usually rotated out every six months, Aguilar said.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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