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Operation Pacific: Bringing Military Entrance Processing to the Islands

By By Lt. Cmdr. Gina Becker, United States Navy USMEPCOM

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Last year in Koror City, Palau, 25 Army applicants from Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia took their oath of enlistment. In attendance at the ceremony was the Palauan Vice President Raynold Oilouch, U.S. Ambassador Amy Hyatt, family and friends of the applicants and other community members.

Despite being a sovereign country, the people of the Republic of Palau, along with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are authorized to join the All-Volunteer Force under the Compact Agreement Treaties with the United States.

It is the mission of the Honolulu Military Entrance Processing Station to support this treaty through annual ASVAB testing and processing trips. In coordination with the Embassies, Minsters of Education, local schools and U.S. Army recruiters for proctor support, the MEPS testing clerks travel to these islands twice a year to give the ASVAB. These testing trips are the only opportunity applicants have to test. Months later, the applicants undergo a medical screening examination and process for enlistment when the Honolulu MEPS personnel return on an enlistment processing trip.

The Honolulu MEPS executes this unique mission by sending a small detachment of five staff members to these locations: an officer in charge, a chief medical officer, a male and female medical technician and a human resources assistant. In addition to the staff's personal luggage, three large pelican cases and three suitcases transport the necessary medical and processing equipment and all applicant records, paperwork, nametags and processing lists. Over the course of about ten days, and without much of any information technology or other support, the team completes all processing functions so the applicants may enlist.

The Honolulu MEPS has been responsible for accomplishing this mission, with an area of responsibility covering 14 million square miles, since the signing of the Compact Agreements in the mid-1980s. That mission has come full circle for three individuals.

Don A. "Mr. Jay" Johnson, Honolulu MEPS lead human resources assistant, has been completing these trips and processing applicants since 2004.

In 2007, Lannie Garayol from Yap, Federal States of Micronesia, and Nakoli Sakaio from Majuro, Marshall Islands, both entered the U.S. Army after being processed for enlistment by "Mr. Jay." Lannie is now Staff Sgt. Garayol, an Army recruiter for Palau and all of the Compact Agreement countries. Nakoli is now Staff Sgt. Sakaio and also a recruiter for the Compact Agreement countries. During the 2018 Palau trip, Staff Sgt. Grayol helped enlist 25 future soldiers in the same location. Staff Sgt. Sakaio, who enlisted eight years ago on the processing trip to Majuro, helped enlist 15 future soldiers on the most recent Majuro trip.

"Mr. Jay," who was present for both Staff Sgts Garayol's and Sakaio's enlistment ceremonies, made the 2018 processing trip and attended 2018's ceremony as well.