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NEWS | Jan. 28, 2013

Everyone has a story: continuing her dream

By Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Army Spc. Innethmaheart Utupo, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, 833rd Transportation Battalion, 597th Transportation Brigade, came from humble beginnings as a Pacific Islander from American Samoa.

No stranger to adversity, her father died when she was 8 years old, after which her mother struggled to support herself and four children by working in a fish factory.

"It was hard. My dad died when I was 8 years old and that's a whole different story because he actually died in my arms," she said. "And I had to live through that growing up. Every time somebody dies I always get scared because that scene of my dad dying is always in my head."

Throughout these hardships, Utupo saw military service an opportunity to achieve her dreams. As a child, she always wanted to join the military and was in the Army JROTC program all four years of high school.

After high school, Utupo applied for and was granted a scholarship to Wentworth Military Academy and College, in Lexington, Mo.

Things were finally taking a turn for the better.

While attending Wentworth, she enrolled into the U.S. Army's Leader's Training Course in Fort Knox, Ky., which is an intensive four-week training program for college students who strive to become Army officers.

Utupo successfully completed and graduated from the course and continued her education at Wentworth.

However, her dreams of becoming an officer would soon be put on hold.

Her mother didn't have enough money to cover living expenses, so Utupo went back home after only completing a few months of school, where she resolved to continue her dream.

After moving to California to live with her aunt she enlisted in the U.S. Army in November of 2010, at the age of 19.

Since then she has never looked back. Utupo said she loves being a Soldier and everything the Army has to offer and teach her.

"I love the Army," she said. "I get to meet new people and learn about their different backgrounds and ethnicities. It gives me the potential to build character, build myself to become better and it's given me a lot of chances [and] opportunities."
According to 1st Sgt. Jennifer Callicutt of the 690th RPOE, Utupo is an extremely hard worker and is always devoted to challenging herself to be better.

"Since arriving to the unit, Spc. Utupo is one of the most engaged Soldiers in the unit," Callicutt said. "She always goes above and beyond what is required of her. Her ability to take on any job shows her eagerness to learn, and become the subject matter expert."

Utupo continues her education by completing online classes toward her bachelor's degree in accounting with the goal of becoming a finance officer.