The Tonga Defense Force deserve more credits than what it has been dealt lately.
Joe Smith, after 20 years in the US armed Forces is missing the point here. The Tonga Defense Force is better compared to its equivalent as the National Guard in the United States armed Services System. Their mission is quite similar.
Joe Smith seems to agree with the existence of the TDS but worried about its size.
TDS size is about that of a US Battalion Minus. Far less than 500 in numbers. But, they are responsible for over 160 small islands spreading over a thousand miles of ocean, stretching from the Niua's in the north to Tongatapu in the south.
The size (number) of soldiers in the TDS is better determined by the commander on the ground and is based on the mission on hand. I am afraid that those of us from distant will do more harm than good trying to determine the size of the TDS. Listen to the debate in US Congress and we hear President Bush arguing for more troops and Congress is yelling, "bring our troops home". What's wrong with this picture here Joe is that no one is asking the commanders on the ground what they really need. As much as I am with you Joe in saving money, I do not want to commit the military sin of determining what is best for a commander on the ground from a distant. Moreover, take our beloved US Armed Forces for example. Every time congress cuts down (to save money) on our budget, you hear stories from the front line of troops without the proper gear and with not enough ammunitions.
Again, I suspect an underlying current of animosities towards the leaders of Tonga. Let's extend the same question that Joe Smith ask toother jurisdictions. American Samoa has two companies of Army reserve Unit, Well over 500 reservist from a total population of 50,000 and a total area of less then 100 square miles. Is this because the Governor is afraid of the people? Not at all. American Samoa is the southern most territory of the United States and in the event of political problems in the Pacific Region, American Samoa will serve as the main forward base for the US Military, just as it was during World War II.
Per capita, the US State of South Dakota has the biggest concentration of National Guardsmen. Is this because the governor of South Dakota is more afraid of the local population of the his state? That is far from the truth. The fact is, South Dakota has the biggest concentration of Native Indians Reservation and in the past there has been problem between the natives and the local white farmers. But recent history requires the Guardsmen presence because of the frequent natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, etc., in the state.
Young people of Tonga joint the TDS for as many different reasons as why you and I joined the US Armed Forces. Sione Fifita outline more or less the same in his letter.
Politely speaking Joe, you and some of your friends has so much to offer for Tonga. But lets submit them in forms of suggestion with courtesy attached. It will go a longer way that the animosities extended in the past.
On the other hand, lets not get too excited about our contribution to the homeland. I have a strong feeling that many of the leaders on the higher echelon do not even read the papers. For the few that do read the Matangi Tonga, they either do not understand a thing or just don't care.
HMHC Mafi 'o Amerika Samoa.
slkava [at] samoatelco [dot] com