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From the shorelines of American Samoa to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, stands on the flightline at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Even though the mountains are bigger than the those in American Samoa, Lokan says they still remind him of life back on the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, stands on the flightline at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Even though the mountains are bigger than the those in American Samoa, Lokan says they still remind him of life back on the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, refolds the hose lines on the engines in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. The population of Lokan’s village was approximately 75 to 100 villagers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, refolds the hose lines on the engines in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. The population of Lokan’s village was approximately 75 to 100 villagers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, conducts a check on all radio communications in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Lokan is from the village of Masausi on the island of American Samoa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, conducts a check on all radio communications in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Lokan is from the village of Masausi on the island of American Samoa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, times himself preparing for fire emergencies in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Lokan says the biggest similarities between the island culture and Air Force culture are family, pride and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, times himself preparing for fire emergencies in the Fire Station at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on May 21, 2016. Lokan says the biggest similarities between the island culture and Air Force culture are family, pride and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Fred Lokan loved to wake up to a gentle-beach breeze and the kiss of warm sun rays. He loved to gaze out his window to his own personal-palm-tree paradise that extended beyond his sight to the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Any worry that existed melted away like a setting sun on the horizon, said Lokan.

Regardless of all the beauty that existed around him, the call to serve in the United State military was not easily deniable. It was a hard decision to leave behind his friends and family. It consisted of sacrificing his personal paradise for the opportunity to better the world. However, it was also an opportunity to represent his deeply-rooted cultural heritage, and stand before his village as symbol of honor and hope.

Airman 1st Class Fred Lokan, a 21st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, traded in his tropical upbringing for a fulfilling service-based life in the United States Air Force and found many cultural similarities between life back in American Samoa and his new military service.

Life became different for him now that there are no palm trees around and the mountains here are much bigger. Lokan said he never had any worries or stress when he was at home, citing the mountains as his reasoning. It’s nice to be able to see them while working at the fire station on base.

“I come from a very small village in American Samoa called Masausi,” said Lokan. “It’s tucked away on the north side of the island in the mountains. There are about 75 to 100 people in my village, so everyone knows about everything going on with everyone, but we all still treat each other like family.”
It’s common in American Samoa that when villagers reach the appropriate age, they leave the island and serve in the military, said Lokan. In fact, Lokan’s brother, an Army drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was the biggest influence on him when it came to deciding to join.

“He told me the military will give me the tools to help me throughout life and life would be better if I enlisted in the Air Force,” said Lokan.

Unity and family are strong values embedded in each member in American Samoa, including the villagers of Masausi. Everybody helps everybody, and the only way enlisting was worthwhile was because as he left one family, he instantly joined another, said Lokan.

“The idea of family is a strong similarity I see between my home and the Air Force,” said Lokan. “It’s never about just one person. Back home we did what we could for each other. It’s the same in the Air Force, we are all a part of the same family taking care of the mission together.”

Alongside the family-like environment the Air Force and military was shaped around, there is an understanding of respect. Without respect the roots of the American Samoa heritage cannot grow and cannot be strengthened, and that also applies in the Air Force.

“Back home respect is everything,” said Lokan. “If you are on the island, you are my family. If you are my family, you have my respect. That is just the way it goes back home. At the fire station it’s the same way. I know I am new and a young Airman, but I know I have the respect of my brothers and that helps me want to be a better firefighter and a better Airman.”

Moving forward with the Air Force family Lokan is now a part of, and the respect that comes from wearing the uniform, he has a sense of pride for himself and his fellow firemen. The strength of his pride for his service is matched by the pride he has of where he’s from, said Lokan.

“I am proud of where I am and who I am with,” said Lokan. “I feel lucky to be in the Air Force and even luckier to be representing my culture and heritage. I haven’t been back home yet, but I am very excited to put this uniform on and hug my family when I finally see them. I know they are as proud of me as I am of them.”

While Lokan enjoyed everything about his life on the island, he found himself feeling like there was more for him in the world and he was right. He is now a proud member of the Air Force, and anytime he wants to be reminded of home, Lokan said all he has to do is look to the mountains.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui