NALEVAWADA, Fiji –
Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve, 1st Platoon, 797th Engineer Company from Barrigada, Guam, and Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF) Engineers were assigned to build a new auditorium and walkway for the Ratu Nalevawada School during Exercise Cartwheel 2022, Nadi, Fiji on Sept. 11 - 22, 2022.
Exercise Cartwheel is a multilateral military-to-military training exercise with the U.S., Republic of Fiji Military, Australian, New Zealand, and British forces that builds expeditionary readiness and interoperability by increasing the capacity to face a crisis and contingencies by developing and stressing units at the highest training levels.
“It shows an enduring commitment to partnership with the Fijian people, Fijian armed forces, and the Pacific region,” said Maj. Scott Forsyth of the Royal (British) Engineers.
With some minor contractual issues at the beginning of the first army project on the island, plans were drawn, and the dilapidated walkway was demolished. Soldiers of 1st Platoon are excited to begin the project they flew to Fiji to complete for the children of the Ratu Nalevawada school house.
“It means a lot to me, our Soldiers, representing the United States giving back to our allies,” said 1st Lt. Richard Valerio, 1st Platoon Leader.
As more supplies arrived on the job site, the excitement of completing this project rose as the soldiers from the island of Guam provided upgrades to one of the many schools that would educate the children of the future.
“The children now are facing a hardship, but for future generations, it is going to be a blessing,” said Moses Naluwau, minister for the Ratu Nalevawada village.
Forms for the new walkway are placed, footers for the auditorium are dug, and concrete is prepared for the arrival of concrete, which will make its way up a rough and winding road to the small village in the Nausori Highlands of this island nation.
“To be able to be in the Highlands, it’s a great place to be,” said Spc. Laurence Galvez, a carpenter, in 1st Platoon.
Rebar and fencing are laid in place as the concrete arrives to start the rising of the new auditorium that will be used for many activities for the school and the community.
“It is a blessing to the people of this village, especially the children of this school,” said Epeli Naiceru, a teacher at the Ratu Nalevawada School.
With much work to be completed, Soldiers of the 1st Platoon work late, night after night, to keep the project on schedule to be completed in time. Many obstacles have been working against the engineers, but their perseverance to achieve the mission shows daily on their faces and in their attitudes.
“The 797th are very proud to be out here working from the beginning of the project,” said Valerio.
As posts go up and steel is raised into the sky, the structures start taking shape. As the project is nearly completed, engineers from both sides pick up the pace to meet their deadline for the village of Ratu Nalevawada.
“We are working together with the Fijians, which is a good partnership; we are working on this project side-by-side,” said Galvez.
After 1st Platoon and the RFMF Engineers work through the night to meet their deadline, the project is finished.
“Giving back to the community for the kids is a great opportunity,” said Galvez.
With a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a feast to celebrate the engineers' hard work and dedication, they finally handed over the new auditorium to the school and the people of Ratu Nalevawada. As tradition with many things on the island of Fiji, they ended the day with a kava ceremony to express their gratitude to the Soldiers for their hard work.
“I would like to extend our regards to the Fijians for welcoming us to their village and country,” said Galvez.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve, 1st Platoon, 797th Engineer Company from Barrigada, Guam, and Republic of Fiji Military Force Engineers completed the building of a new auditorium and walkway for the Ratu Nalevawada School to enjoy for years to come. Military-to-military training with RFMF forces increases readiness and the ability to respond quickly; working together effectively in a crisis, such as natural disasters, improves response capabilities to situations threatening public health and safety.
“It means a lot to me as my forefathers started this school,” said Epeli Vamosi, the village headman.