DVIDS – News – Building the future of children
NALEVAWADA, FIJI – Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserves, 1st Platoon, 797th Engineer Company from Barrigada, Guam, and engineers from the Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF) were assigned to construct of a new auditorium and walkway for Ratu Nalevawada School during Exercise Cartwheel 2022, Nadi, Fiji September 11-22, 2022.
Exercise Cartwheel is a multilateral military training exercise with United States, Republic of Fiji, Australian, New Zealand, and United Kingdom military forces that builds expeditionary readiness and interoperability by increasing the ability to cope to crisis and contingencies by developing and emphasizing units at the highest levels of training.
“This shows an enduring commitment to partnership with the Fijian people, the Fijian armed forces and the Pacific region,” said Major Scott Forsyth of the Royal (British) Engineers.
With some minor contractual issues at the start of the army’s first project on the island, plans were drawn up and the dilapidated walkway was demolished. Soldiers from 1st Platoon are excited to start the project as they flew to Fiji to complete it for the children of Ratu Nalevawada School.
“It means a lot to me, our soldiers, representing the United States by giving back to our allies,” said 1st Lt. Richard Valerio, 1st Platoon Commander.
As more supplies arrived at the job site, the excitement to complete this project grew as soldiers on the island of Guam made improvements to one of the many schools that would educate the children of the future.
“Children are now facing difficulties, but for future generations it will be a blessing,” said Ratu Nalevawada village minister Moses Naluwau.
Forms for the new walkway are placed, the legs of the auditorium are dug in and the concrete is prepared for the arrival of the concrete, which will wind up a rough and winding road to the small village in the highlands of Nausori of this island nation. .
“To be able to be in the Highlands, it’s a great place,” said Spc. Laurence Galvez, carpenter, 1st Platoon.
Rebar and fencing are being put in place as the concrete comes in to begin the rise of the new auditorium which will be used for many school and community activities.
“It is a blessing for the people of this village, especially for the children of this school,” said Epeli Naiceru, a teacher at Ratu Nalevawada School.
With a lot of work to finish, the soldiers of 1st Platoon work late night after night to keep the project on schedule. Many obstacles stood against the engineers, but their perseverance in accomplishing the mission can be read daily on their faces and in their attitudes.
“The 797th is very proud to be here working since the project began,” Valerio said.
As the poles go up and the steel rises into the sky, the structures begin to take shape. As the project nears completion, engineers from both sides are picking up the pace to meet their deadline for Ratu Nalevawada Village.
“We are working with the Fijians, which is a good partnership; we are working side by side on this project,” Galvez said.
After 1st Platoon and RFMF engineers worked through the night to meet their deadline, the project was complete.
“Giving back to the community for the kids is a great opportunity,” Galvez said.
With a groundbreaking ceremony and party 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 a 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 send our regards to the Fijians for welcoming us to their village and country,” Galvez said.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserves, 1st Platoon, 797th Engineer Company from Barrigada, Guam, and engineers from the Republic of Fiji Military Force completed construction of a new auditorium and a gateway for 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 during a crisis, such as a natural disaster, improves capabilities to respond to situations threatening public health and safety.
“It means a lot to me because my ancestors started this school,” said village chief Epeli Vamosi.
US Army History by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Guffey, 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment