NADI, Fiji – U.S. Army Pacific Soldiers participated in the opening ceremony for Exercise Cartwheel at Black Rock Camp, Fiji, September 12, 2022.
Exercise Cartwheel is a multilateral military-to-military training exercise between the Republic of Fiji Military, Australian, New Zealand, British and U.S. Army Pacific forces that builds expeditionary readiness and interoperability by increasing capacity to face crises and contingencies by stressing units at the highest training levels.
Soldiers assigned to 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, supported by Army Reserve 797th Engineers, 402nd Forward Resuscitative Surgical Team, and 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, will partner with Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Australian, New Zealand, and British Soldiers during the 11-day exercise.
Soldiers will train on urban, rappelling, and jungle operations with opportunities for unit ministry teams, medical teams, and engineers to trade best practices simultaneously.
Cartwheel is the final 2022 Operation Pathways event for 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Over the past seven months, the brigade completed eight different exercises in six countries across the Indo-Pacific region.
During his opening remarks, U.S. Navy Commander Victor Lange, senior defense official / defense attaché – U.S. Embassy in Fiji, expanded on the genesis of the exercise moniker.
“The name of this exercise originates in Operation Cartwheel, a major military operation for the Allies in the Pacific during World War II,” said Lange. “In Operation Cartwheel, forces from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji joined by other Pacific Island nations, fought side by side to neutralize the Japanese base at Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.”
Lt. Col. John-Paul Smock, Army Attaché - U.S. Embassy Suva, emphasized the importance of the longstanding partnership between the host nation and the U.S. during his opening remarks.
Smock read a 1944 citation from when Maj. Gen. O.W. Griswold lauded the 3rd Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment for their effort during Operation Cartwheel.
“The excellent combat spirit, discipline, soldierly bearing, and sportsmanship of every member of the 3rd Battalion has earned for Fijians the highest esteem among the American Forces. It is my sincere hope that the fortunes of war will again place your battalion under my command.”
Following the ceremony’s opening remarks, attendees moved to an open-air pavilion for the culturally rich portion of the morning’s event. Members of all forces shared a traditional drink called Kava, prepared ceremoniously to symbolize the coming together as one family, united in the goal of working toward a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Later, members of the New Zealand Army, led by Warrant Officer Class One Chad Dewes, assigned to the 1st New Zealand Brigade, gave thanks through song and summed up the opening ceremony.
“We are here to build relationships and to work hard in beautiful Fiji,” said Dewes.