LABASA, Fiji - A contingency of approximately 150 U.S. Soldiers serving with B Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Inf. Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, and the 3rd Fiji Inf. Regiment, came together for the opening ceremony for Pacific Pathways' Exercise Cartwheel 2019, in Labasa, Fiji, July 29.
Exercise Cartwheel 2019 is a bilateral military-to-military training exercise hosted by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and co-sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific. Military-to-Military training improves the readiness of both U.S. and Republic of Fiji Military Forces increasing capabilities to respond to a crisis.
"Soldiers train, work and learn together. This type of training allows the United States and The Republic of Fiji Forces to improve their expeditionary readiness and interoperability, and increase one another's ability to face crisis contingencies," The Adjutant General of the state of Nevada Brig. Gen. William R. Burks said.
Civil Affairs has a stake in the claim of Exercise Cartwheel too; the 351st Civil Affairs Command has a team that will be visiting schools and conducting community health engagements in many areas.
"Exercise Cartwheel is not only a military training exercise, because a U.S. Army Civil Affairs team will host health engagements promoting basic health, sanitation in the communities of Labasa and Savsavu," Burks said.
A goal of the exercise, is to maintain peace and stability in the region and to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. The name of the exercise comes from Operation Cartwheel during World War II, when U.S. and Fijian forces were working together to establish a disrupted peace.
"Operation Cartwheel was an operation aimed to neutralize the Japanese in New Guinea and establish peace. Fortunately, this oceania region enjoys peace today and Exercise Cartwheel promises to go a long way to maintain that said peace," Burks Said.
Maintaining peace means that nations need to work together, and strong partnerships need to be established on a strong foundation, so peace-keeping facets of partner governments can work seamlessly in the event of a natural disaster or security matters.
"Fiji is a maritime nation, and the Pacific is not immune to the security challenges, which threaten peace and stability on other continents," Mr. Manasa Lesuma, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Defence and National Security said. "Just as Operation Cartwheel advanced the security of the Pacific during World War II, I firmly believe that Exercise Cartwheel has the potential to pave the way in our quest to have a secure Fiji and region about us."
Mr. Lesuma continued to explain how he foresees the exercise setting the stage for follow on exercises, deepening the partnership.
"This exercise no doubt will lay the platform for our two forces to share and learn from each other as we try and align ourselves to face common contemporary security challenges. I believe it will allow an opportunity for our two forces to build a special bond of friendship and understanding and respect that we will reminisce for years to come," Lesuma said.
Burks echoed Lesuma's sentiment in his closing remarks when he said, "there can only be one first Exercise Cartwheel," Burks said. "For those participants here today, you will look back some day and know that you provided the foundation and the platform to strengthen bilateral military capabilities forever more."