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PNG Military Officer Rapola makes history in Selection into US Military Academy

Papua New Guinea Defense Force Officer Cadet Gareitz Rapola has become the first Papua New Guinean to be selected into the West Point Military Academy in the United States of America.

The 22-year-old was selected by the US Military and PNGDF through a high level military process in a pool of 34 highly qualified and competitive PNGDF applicants.

PNGDF Chief of Staff Captain Phillip Polewara in an announcement and farewell ceremony with the US Ambassador to PNG and staff with cadet Gareitz and his parents yesterday said the selection of Gareitz into a well known United States Military Academy is a remarkable milestone for PNGDF and the country.

"We as a country have done and excel in so many areas of science, law, military, sports and so on, and this is one of those moments, not only for PNGDF but as a country," said Captain Polewara.

Captain Polewara while thanking the US Military for their support in Military programs through US Ambassador to PNG Her Excellency Catherine Ebert-Grey, mentioned that he himself is a product or the US Military exchange programs with PNGDF.

"Gareitz's selection was not easy, it wasn't tested by Papua New Guineans, a panel of US Army officers in the US evaluated his academic, civic, military, and athletic history before selecting him."

Her Excellency Ebert-Grey while congratulating Gareitz, said this symbolism is profound in the growing friendship, the development of Papua New Guinea, the future of youth in the country and the excellence of PNG as a nation.

"I very, very warmly congratulate Gareitz Rapola, who is the first Papua New Guinean to be selected for the US Military Academy at West Point", said Her Excellency Ebert-Grey.

"To be accepted at West Point is an honor and an incredible accomplishment."

"Only 1, 300 cadets are accepted each year out of thousands and thousands of applicants coming from within and outside of the United States," she said.

West Point Military Academy was established by the former US President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 and the oldest continually occupied military post in the US.

"The academic program that Gareitz will undergo will grant a bachelors degree with a curriculum that grades a cadet's performance upon a broad academic program, military leadership, and mandatory participation in athletic activities."

Her Excellency Ebert-Grey in her congratulatory remarks quoted West Point's favourite expression "Much Of The History We Teach Are Made By The People We Taught" as she reminded Gareitz of countless graduates of West Point who served in their society in medicine, law, politics and business.

"We are therefore humbled at this time that Cadet Rapola will join the ranks, Congratulations," concluded Her Excellency Ebert-Grey.

Gareitz's father, Lt Colonel Lawrence Rapola who is also the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Royal Pacific Island Regiment (2RPIR) at Moem Barracks said his advice on focus, sacrifice and discipline to his son hadu paid off in seeing his first born son undergoing this significant step in PNG's history.

"Ever since Gareitz was a child, he showed his skills in science, creating toys using clothesline pegs or imitating aeroplanes and helicopters," said Gareitz's dad Lt Colonel Rapola.

Being a child of a soldier, Gareitz attended schools in three different army barracks, beginning at Taurama Barracks in Port Moresby to Igam Barracks in Lae before finishing his grade eight at Moem Barracks in Wewak when his father move there.

Gareitz did his lower secondary schooling at Dela Salle Catholic Secondary School in Port Moresby and St Charles before going to Australia for a year and returned to do his grade 11 and completed his grade 12 at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School in the Nation's Capital in 2016.

Lt Colonel Rapola said the greatest satisfaction as a father and army officer to have for his son was when Gareitz graduated as an infantry army officer back at Igam in 2018.

"But for him to get selected to go to one of the most prestigious military academy that none of us in Papua New Guinea had ever been to is mind blowing to my family and the only think I can say is God is great."

Officer Cadet Gareitz in an interview with this reporter said he firstly thanked God for the milestone opportunity and expressed gratitude to the US Military and PNGDF as well as his family for their support towards his achievements.

"It means so much, to be honest with myself, I couldn't even dream of this opportunity, I'm not sure if I'm excited or scared but I'll definitely give my 110% at it," said Gareitz.

"Focus on your studies and give your best to whatever fuel you decide to take. Opportunities will definitely come your way if you commit yourself and give your absolute best," concluded Gareitz.

Gareitz hails from Aroma in Central Province where his father is from and mother of East Sepik Province and Northern Province origin, and is the first born of his two siblings.

His father is currently an active serviceman, and also his grandfather had served the PNGDF during his time.

Pic: From left, US Military Officer, US Ambassador to PNG H.E Catherine Ebert-Grey, Officer Cadet Gareitz Rapola, PNGDF Chief of Staff Captain Phillip Polewara, (Gareitz's dad and mum) Lt Col Lawrence Rapola and wife.

FM100/Photo: Sophie Yaruso, US Embassy.

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