Gabbard Tamayo Makes History At Military Academy
By Lisa Asato
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Former state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo displays her Distinguished Honor Graduate award,
trophy and saber. She is now a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in Washington,
D.C. Photo from Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo.
Former state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo graduated March 9 at the top of her class at Alabama Military Academy’s Officer Candidate School.
Out of a class of 155 candidates, she was chosen by her peers to receive the Distinguished Honor Graduate award, which recognizes overall achievement in the areas of leadership, academics, physical fitness and peer evaluations.
Tamayo, a 25-year-old Kapolei resident, spent two months at Fort McClellan for field-intensive study covering “everything from basic leadership skills, communication, writing, military history, infantry tactics and so much more.” She is the first woman to receive the award in the academy’s 50 years.
“It was very humbling, but definitely an honor,“said Tamayo, who received a saber donated by the Alabama Military Academy Alumni Association, a plaque and the Erickson Trophy, which is awarded to the distinguished graduate from each of the state officer candidate schools.
Tamayo spent 18 months on active duty,including a year in Balad, Iraq, as a citizen soldier with the Hawaii National Guard. The Guard was to commission her as a second lieutenant April 1 at a ceremony at the state Capitol.
Her training in Alabama followed several months of schooling at the Regimental Training Institute at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo. Tamayo said she took the initiative to pursue officer training because she felt she could make positive changes as a leader.
“After having been deployed in combat the responsibilities of being an officer in today’s Army sits very deep in my heart,” she said. “And I look forward to meeting that responsibility.”
Tamayo is now a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in Washington, D.C., where she said she’s enjoying having a front-row seat to lawmaking in the world’s most powerful country.
“It’s an amazing experience to watch things unfold literally right in front of you,” said Tamayo, who will graduate this year from Hawaii Pacific University with a bachelor’s degree in international business.
A former state representative for Waipahu and Ewa, Tamayo ended her bid for re-election in 2004 after being called for active duty. At 21, she was the youngest person ever elected to the state House. Hawaii is her home, she said, and she does-n’t rule out running for office again in the future.
Tamayo was homeschooled by her parents, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents Waikele and Ko Olina, among other areas, and Carol Gabbard, a former Board of Education member and current small-business woman.
Tamayo said she got more out of her training than she ever expected, but she earning the respect of her peers is especially rewarding.
“I learned so much in so many ways,“she said,“and I feel that I have been enriched in both my civilian life and my military life as a result. And I know it will help me to be a good leader.”
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