Hawaii Air Guard
aiding in flight for
Samoan soldier’s funeral

WASHINGTON » The Hawaii Air National Guard has come to the rescue of two dozen colleagues and friends of Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Frank Tiai who were unable to book commercial flights to Pago Pago to be at his funeral.

Tiai was the first Army reservist of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, to die in combat in Iraq -- killed Sunday by a roadside bomb. His services will be during the first week of August.

The 46-year-old Army reservist was a member of Charlie Company of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry -- a unit of the Hawaii Amy National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team.

The Army said friends of Tiai are having problems trying to get tickets from Hawaiian Airlines to attend their friend's funeral in American Samoa during the week of Aug. 5.

"The clock is ticking," an Army Reserve official in Honolulu said last night.

Tiai's body is believed to still be at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, head of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, said last night that since Hawaiian is unable to provide the service, the Air Guard can legitimately step in.

"We are in the process of getting the necessary approvals from the National Guard Bureau," Lee said.

He said one of the problems was inability to get Brig. Gen. John Ma, head of the Army Reserve in Hawaii, for the service.

"He's the officer who is in charge, and should be there."

Lee estimated that the KC-135 stratotanker mission will only take a day since there are few hotel accommodations in Pago Pago.

"It will probably be a flight down there," Lee said, "attend the funeral and back the next day."

Tiai, 45, was the fourth member of the 29th Brigade Combat Team to be killed in Iraq since the unit arrived in Iraq in late February.

Tiai was in the third vehicle of a convoy patrolling along "Route Raider outside Logistics Support Area Anaconda" when an improvised roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle.

Tiai is survived by his wife and two children, a son, 19, and a daughter, 6.

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