HURLBURT FIELD, Florida (AFNS) –
In a historic first, SMSgt Jacinta Migo became the first American Samoan woman in the Air Force to be promoted to Master Sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the 505th Test & Training Group at Hurlburt Field on February 1.
Migo’s family and colleagues watched live and streamed video as she joined an elite group of senior enlisted airmen who are only reached by 1% of the enlisted force.
Migo, the daughter of Faatamalii and Maiava Leo, is the first American Samoan woman born and raised to be promoted to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, which made the ceremony even more unique. She may be the first American Samoan to achieve this rank.
American Samoa is a US territory covering five South Pacific islands and two atolls, which is slightly larger than Washington, DC It is home to just over fifty thousand people. Living in such a small area meant that “our culture was focused on God, family, respect, service and love,” Migo said.
Migo describes life in his hometown of Pago Pago as simple and strict, mainly because “with six daughters in a row my parents had to be (strict)”. Migo is his parents’ third child out of 11 children (six girls and five boys) – including a nephew who was raised as a brother.
His childhood focused on school and church, playing sports in both places. “My mom was our number one cheerleader,” Migo recalls, “her voice echoed across the pitch or across the court.”
American Samoa is the birthplace of the most successful recruiting stations in the US military, as it has the highest military enlistment rate of any US state or territory. Migo’s family has a long line of service in the United States Army, including many of his immediate and extended family.
When Migo started high school, his second older sister joined the US Coast Guard; she recently retired after 24 years of honorable service. The following year, her older sister joined the United States Army. Since then, two more of his sisters have served and one brother is also currently serving in the military.
Migo, her high school student, joined the US Air Force in 1998 because she met the service’s high score requirements on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Examination. The tropical island volunteered for Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to be her first duty station because she had family members living in the area.
During the ceremony, Colonel Francisco Gallei, commander of the 505th Test and Training Group, noted that Migo was a highly accomplished aviator who received many accolades during his career. “Not only was she honored with two important command-level awards, one in the Pacific Command and the other in the North American Aerospace Defense Command, as the operator of the year in command and control combat management, ”announced Gallei,“ she was also the recipient of an Air Force level award last year.
Gallei then looked at the audience and told her three children: Shelton, Terrence and Alayah – their mother often says they are her greatest achievement. Migo pointed out this after his children placed the ceremonial master sergeant’s badge on his uniform. “My success comes from the man at the top, my family, my friends, colleagues and mentors.”
COVID-19 restrictions have prevented many of his family from traveling to attend the ceremony in person, particularly to American Samoa. For them, Migo reiterated the importance of American Samoa and her family to her. “I just changed my last name to my last name from Migo,” she said, noting that she had planned to change it before moving on to her next assignment. “I did it before this ceremony because the time had come; it honors my family, my village and American Samoa.
Although Migo fondly remembers her career, she says she wasn’t a perfect aviator at first and “it wasn’t always an easy trip.” She brought in many leaders, mentors and family members and challenged her to be a better aviator. Her key to success and advice to Airmen is to be “persevering, resilient, and humble.”
This advice is in keeping with this Samoan proverb and the words of encouragement that Migo shared with other American Samoans: “E iloa le Samoa i lona tu, tautala, ma lona savali”, – translated: “You know a Samoan by the way he / she gets up, talks and walks. Migo summed it up with: “Be proud of your culture and where you come from. Never give up on what you think is important; when you fall or hit a roadblock, get up and try again or reassess and press. “
Migo is currently the superintendent of the 505th Test and Training Group. She is the group commander’s primary adviser on all enlisted matters and briefs the commander on matters affecting the health, morale, welfare, training and good use of over 500 personnel assigned to four squadrons , three detachments and six operating locations.
CMSgt Loretta V. Washington, superintendent of 316th Medical Support Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Md., Knows how historic and special this moment is for Migo. In 2020, Washington became the first Samoan woman to achieve the rank of chief master sergeant. Although close to each other, Samoa and American Samoa are two separate entities. Samoa is an independent country west of the international date line, while American Samoa is US territory east of the international date line.
“Some may not understand this joy for someone you have never met,” Washington said of Migo, “but if you knew about our Samoan culture, you would know that our humble history began with only two daughters. Samoans from small islands in the Pacific who joined the United States Air Force for the sole purpose of making our parents proud.
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