Vietnam veteran Sgt. Maj. Herman Atalig, who has served in many leadership positions in his 28-year career in active duty Army and 10 years as a sergeant major, resigned last week from his post as the JROTC instructor of Rota’s Dr. Rita H. Inos Junior/Senior High School.
He explained that, at this juncture in his life, he decided to retire due to his need to fully heal from three major surgeries he recently had.
“My future plan is to maintain the healing process and to continue to work as a public servant as well as to volunteer at the RHI JR./Sr. High School,” he said.
Atalig shared how he made a personal commitment that one day he would share the tools and values he learned in the military that were instrumental in his success and to fulfill his father’s dream to return to his ancestral Island, Rota, to serve his people. Immediately after retiring from the military, Atalig began his 15-year career with the JROTC program on Rota.
He said that one of the greatest testaments of a teacher’s legacy are the accomplishments of the students under the educator’s guidance.
“At the inception of my JROTC career, it was my hope that one day the cadets would be able to command and control the unit by the chain of command effectively and efficiently,” he said.
During his five-month medical leave, he said the cadets on the southern island clearly proved themselves to be competent enough to control the unit on their own.
In an interview with Saipan Tribune, Atalig enumerated the many accolades the Chamorro Buck Battalion has achieved during his 15-year tenure at the public high school.
He said that some of the greatest memories he has had with the Rota school is garnering first place five times at the CNMI JROTC Interisland Competition, receiving Honor Unit with Distinction, the most prestigious accomplishment in the JROTC Program during five Annual Inspections that was conducted by ranking military officers from Fort Lewis, Washington, and being awarded three congressional/Senate resolutions for excellence.
Two years ago, the group competed in the 8th Brigade Drill Competition and won first place in the Unarmed Drill, vying against 24 schools nationwide. Last year, although most of the cadets were 9th graders, they competed at the varsity level of the National Golden Bear Competition in California against 54 schools and won third place in the Unarmed Drill Competition.
In 2004, the cadets created a Buck Memory Book and for the past several years the cadets developed an annual DVD documenting their accomplishments. Additionally, for the past 15 years they have created a monthly newsletter highlighting their activities.
Although the Rota cadets have accomplished tasks and received awards above expectations, Atalig feels the greatest accomplishment of the cadets is “their ability to plan, organize, coordinate, and execute any event.”
“They have devoted thousands of hours for community and school support and JROTC performances.”
Board of Education Rota representative Denise Tanya King said she is impressed most with Atalig’s “integrity, humility, sense of honor, and determination to give 150 percent in everything he does. He exemplifies the quote ’walks softly with a large stick.’”
Of the various military assignments Atalig has completed, he cherishes the most serving as an ROTC instructor at Rutgers University, Inspector General Sergeant Major, Battle Staff Sergeant Major, and Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Reserve Component in Guam.
He also received the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit Medal.
“I appreciate the unwavering support of the Board of Education, particularly Tanya D. King, Commissioner of Education Dr. Rita Sablan, the DAI, LTC Robert Gay and his staff for providing resources, Ms. Sharlene Manglona, RHI Jr./Sr. Principal for her unconditional support, compassion and always leading from the front, the RHI faculty and staff, and last but not the least the cadets who have worked relentlessly as a family.”
Atalig said it has been a distinct honor and privilege to have worked with such incredible cadets and that whoever is hired to replace him will be blessed with a high performing unit.
“I want to thank our friends and families for their prayers which were instrumental in my recovery,” he added.
Aside from the Vietnam War, Atalig was also part of the mobilization task force in the Panama Invasion and a part of the Battle Team during the Kuwait Liberation.