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NEWS | May 15, 2024

Aloha from Africa: Hawaii native celebrates Asian American, Pacific Islander heritage

By Maj. Joe Legros U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa

As with many native Hawaiians, U.S. Army Capt. Ivy Young is a mix of ethnicities including Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, German and Puerto Rican. Growing up within the diverse population of Honolulu, her childhood was immersed in traditional Hawaiian culture. Now, together with her U.S. Army Reserve unit, she traveled to the other side of the world to participate in exercise African Lion 2024 (AL24).

“I've been to New Zealand and Japan before, but this is my first time to Africa," said U.S. Army Capt. Ivy Young, commander of the 970th Transportation Detachment Movement Control Team (970th TC DET (MCT)), 385th Transportation Battalion.

Young’s team works together with exercise leads from U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) and the 79th Theater Sustainment Command team to facilitate the efficient movement of personnel and cargo in and out of logistics areas from the hub of Tunis throughout the country, even to distant areas such as the Port of Gabes and Ben Ghilouf, which is over six hours away.

To put this in perspective, there are nearly 2,500 service members in the Tunisian spoke of AL24. Running from April 19 to May 31, the exercise takes place in four host nations to also include Ghana, Morocco and Senegal, bringing the total to 8,100 participants from 27 nations. MCTs have their hands full at every turn; but Young readily accepted the mission.

Working within a hectic, multinational atmosphere is commonplace in Hawaii, says Young. But she also shared that her Eugene, Oregon-based reserve unit is very diverse and multilingual, indicating they were ready for the challenge.

"An MCT is designed to expedite, coordinate and supervise transportation support of units, cargo and personnel," explains Young. “I really enjoy any opportunity for us to exercise our capabilities and provide real-world support to the units at AL24."

Together with Tunisian partners, Young’s team greets new arrivals at the airport, facilitates customs inspections with Tunisian officials, then moves everyone to their assigned locations.

“When anyone submits a movement request to our team, we review and process the request before submitting it to the joint operations cell,” said Young. “An American liaison reviews the requests alongside Tunisian counterparts to determine their ability to support the movement and allocate assets accordingly.”

With so many multinational participants and many moving parts, Young’s team often works late into the night to facilitate movement requests. Due to travel constraints, many units arrive close to midnight or early in the morning, but the MCT is always ready with a smile to welcome them to Tunisia.

“Since a little before the start of the exercise, we coordinated the movement of approximately 3,225 personnel moving from one location to another,” added U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Vaughan, detachment sergeant for the 970th TC DET (MCT). “We also oversaw the transportation of nearly 150 pieces of cargo and equipment all throughout the country of Tunisia.”

Vaughan, Young and the other members of the MCT are constantly together and continually on the move, frequently traveling between locations to ensure successful transit. “Often, we’re so close to each other that many of us talk and associate regularly outside of battle assembly weekends; we’re a family,” added Vaughan.

Vaughan also shared that Young has been a breath of fresh air for the unit, saying they went from not knowing each other at all, to quickly accepting her as a new family member within their tight-knit group.

“Soon after she became our commander, the unit was informed we would deploy to the Middle East,” said Vaughan. “Rather than shy away from the challenge, Young embraced it, getting to know our team during the pre-deployment process. She quickly related to our soldiers and I can honestly say her leadership, partnership and guidance have left a mark here in the 970th that cannot be matched.”

The shared experience of a deployment can often lead to lifelong bonds of friendship. Vaughan expressed this same sentiment when speaking about his commander.

“I’ve been at her left side throughout her entire tenure with the 970th,” he said. “We’ve had laughs, shared words and tears, both of sadness and joy. I’ve seen her grow from someone that was an excited, slightly unsure officer in the beginning to a wonderful, strong and powerful commander and friend.”

For Young, the camaraderie and shared challenges are exactly what she hoped for when she first joined the military.

"My freshman year of college left me feeling like I wasn't being challenged enough and I had too much free time," Young recalls.

A chance encounter with a college roommate involved in Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) sparked Young's interest in military life.

Her roommate took her to meet with a recruiter and, within 15 minutes, she was signed up for Army ROTC and military science classes. Switching her major from business to civil engineering to enhance her prospects for an Army ROTC scholarship, Young found herself drawn to the discipline and camaraderie of military training.

"My college years in ROTC really transformed me as a person and a leader," she reflected. “I gained a lot of confidence and leadership skills that have helped me in every aspect of my life.”

She shared that she found out about the African assignment shortly after returning from a nine-month deployment to Saudi Arabia, where she and Vaughan performed MCT duties during Operation Inherent Resolve.

Deployments and events like AL24 would not be possible without the total force contributions of both guardsmen and reservists like Young. But after the exercise, she returns home and back to civilian responsibilities.

“Off duty, I serve as a project engineer for a general contractor,” said Young. “But I really love to cook, craft and travel. I really miss cooking while being deployed or on a training assignment like this one.”

As the Department of Defense honors and remembers the many contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders this month, Young says she values her experience in Africa, while maintaining a love for her cultural background. She always returns home from assignments with new recipes to try and looks forward to reuniting with friends and family.

“There are a couple Tunisian recipes I really look forward to trying when I get home. I’ll definitely have some good memories to share from my experience in Africa,” said Young.