LABASA, Fiji - The 3rd Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment sang a soulful farewell serenade to their U.S. Army counterparts at the closing ceremony of Pacific Pathways Exercise Cartwheel at the Victoria Cross Barracks in Labasa, Fiji, Aug. 12.

The U.S. Army Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry. Regiment, (Wolfhounds) 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division has been training closely with the Fijian 3rd Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment over the two-week period creating bonds of friendship through shared hardship. The exercise provided tough realistic training, strengthened the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and U.S. Army capacity as regional leaders, and increased security cooperation for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

"Cartwheel 2019 undoubtedly has created a bond of both a personal and professional nature," said Ilai Moceica, who serves the Fiji government as deputy secretary of defense and national security. "It has kindled a friendship by spending time together building skills and confidence through various activities, and finely honing that warrior, soldier fighting spirit."

The exercise was conducted in the towns of Labasa and Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu, known to Fijians as the Friendly North. Three U.S. platoons serving with the Wolfhounds, and three sister platoons with the 3rd FIR, rotated over the two weeks between three very different kinds of infantry tactic training.

"To highlight a few specifics in that training, the platoons conducted a rifle range, jungle training, and military operations in urban terrain," said Lt. Col. Louis Kangas, who serves as commander of the Wolfhounds. "The Soldiers standing before you accomplished this training with professionalism and enthusiasm, continuing the legacy that came before them that this Exercise is named after."
Exercise Cartwheel was modeled after a Pacific campaign during World War II named Operation Cartwheel, through which the U.S. and Fiji worked together to maintain peace. The focus of this exercise was to revitalize old relationships with key partners to ensure the Indo-Pacific region stays free and open.

"Exercise Cartwheel, whose historic namesake comes from an important operation in World War II, where Fijians and Americans fought side-by-side, is the first military-to-military exercise between the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the United States Army," Kangas said. "This exercise is a continuation of that legacy. Exercise Cartwheel 2019, like Operation Cartwheel, was a great success, as well as a building block for continued partnership going into the future. Exercise Cartwheel 2020 will be essential to U.S. Army Pacific and allied partners' strategic vision for the region."

Kangas explained that Exercise Cartwheel served as a platform on which to build further U.S. Army engagements with Fiji, and reiterated the U.S. commitment in Fiji and the Oceania region, and closed with an expression of gratitude for the islanders around the training sites.

"To the island of Vanua Levu, the Friendly North, you have truly lived up to your name. Your friendliness and hospitality have been second to none. Everyone here has made our stay truly enjoyable, thank you," Kangas said. "Remember, you always have a friend in the Wolfhounds."