The Fort Riley Equal Employment Opportunity Office has a new staff member on board.
Retired 1st Sgt. Taataai Taufetee, EEO specialist, also known as “Mr. T,” comes from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo, but he is no stranger to Fort Riley.
Mr. T’s first duty station was Fort Riley after joining the Army in 1985.
“I went in as a private,” he said. “I was a combat engineer.”
During the last five years of his military career, Mr. T was asked to take on the task of becoming an equal opportunity adviser.
“I started doing that (EOA) job and I enjoyed it,” he said.
The EOA and the EEO are similar in job performances, Mr. T said. The EEO deals with civilians and the law whereas the EOA deals with the military side of things, he said.
“I learned more about myself,” he said. “I noticed that there were some things that I did that I didn’t realize until I attended that course.”
It created more self-awareness, he said, adding that’s what it’s all about.
“First you need to know about yourself before you judge others,” he said.
Gaining the experience as an EOA sparked an interest in Mr. T. When he officially retired in 2008 after 22 years of service with the Army, it was not long before he decided to serve as a Department of the Army civilian.
“After I retired I went home for about four months … and then I got a call,” he said.
An EEO position was offered to him at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“I took it as an opportunity to work for the EEO side,” he said. “Yeah I got lucky – good folks, the Lord was on my side – (they) said, ‘hey come work for the EEO.’”
After serving four years with the EEO at Fort Leonard Wood, Mr. T said he decided to seize the chance at Fort Riley to grow professionally.
“I was looking for an opportunity to step up,” he said.
Learning from the leadership at Fort Riley was a plus too, he said.
The goal of the EEO office is to help Fort Riley become a model employer based upon a diverse workforce and is founded upon equality of opportunity, according to Fort Riley’s EEO website.
“We’re here to give advice (and) provide guidance to the civilian workforce,” Mr T. said. “If they have any issues (or) concerns in reference to the employment, we’re here to help them. Just give us a call.”
Mr. T. has been with Fort Riley’s EEO office since November 2012.
His Family – four daughters, six grandchildren and wife of 29 years – still reside in Missouri.
“Hopefully soon the wife will be here,” he said.
His daughters are grown, but they and the grandkids still live in the same house, he said.
“With the economy right now, it’s hard, so it’s a good time for the Family to work together, and pretty much that’s how the majority of Pacific Islanders (do it),” Mr. T said. “Everything is about Family and helping each other out.”
Mr. T was born in American Samoa, but was raised in Hawaii. Even after joining the military, he and his Family consider Honolulu, Hawaii, to be their hometown.
“We moved around a lot … my girls, they’re military brats,” Mr. T said.
Moving around allowed him to experience and appreciate the differences between cultures including in one of his favorite pastimes: Fishing.
“I like net fishing,” he said. “From the island we do fishing with the net. We take like a 50-foot net out in the ocean and just cast it out there.
“Once I got here in the states, I tried the fishing pole (and) I liked it,” he said.
Experiencing different cultures is a definite plus for military life, and Mr. T encourages others to take advantage of the opportunities, especially at Fort Riley.
“(Fort Riley) has grown big time. Last time I was here (was) 20-plus years ago,” he said.
There are a lot of things to do at Fort Riley, he added.
“You’ve just to go out there and explore and enjoy yourself,” he said.
By Calun Reece
1st Inf. Div. Post