Welcomes don’t come much warmer than the one given by the 7th Combat Brigade to 37 soldiers and officers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces at the beginning of Exercise Coral Soldier on Gallipoli Barracks.
The visiting Fijians integrated with Alpha Company, 8th/9th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR) to enhance their individual and collective warfighting skills.
The welcome featured a blessing from the 8/9 RAR padre and a welcome to country from local indigenous elder Uncle Des.
Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) contingent commander Captain Allan Harry said he was impressed by the warm welcome.
“The guys are also glad that they were able to meet the 7th Combat Brigade Commander, Brigadier Jason Blain and likewise the Commanding Officers,” Captain Harry said.
The RFMF contingent responded in kind to the warm welcome with their own traditional kava ceremony.
“It’s a ceremony that we do in Fiji whenever go to a new place,” Captain Harry said.
“That is presenting kava, in order to tell the people that own the place that we are here and we will abide by your rules and we are here to be a part of you.”
All members of the RFMF contingent undertook two weeks hotel quarantine in Sydney before arriving at Gallipoli Barracks and Captain Harry said all members were keen to get down to training.
“The first thing we are looking at is the military side of the house and that is learning as much as possible, especially in military skills,” Captain Harry said.
“We have been having hurricanes and all these humanitarian and disaster relief activities in Fiji, and our skills have been affected as a result.”
Officer Commanding Alpha Company 8/9 RAR Major Joseph Carman said his soldiers and officers were honoured to host the Fijians.
“We’ve put a lot of work into the training program, the training is focused at urban training, to further develop our urban warfighting skillsets across the company,” Major Carman said.
“More importantly, it’s the friendship component, working alongside the Fijians, the partnership and looking at developing those skills.”
Exercise Coral Soldier is the latest example of the deepening relationship between the RFMF and ADF.
Members on Exercise Coral Soldier last year helped the Orbost community in Victoria for Bula force, the RFMF contribution to Operation Bushfire Assist.
Private Inia Ligava said it was an honour to return.
“We spent a month in Orbost, clearing fire breaks, waking up early in the morning, getting ourselves ready, get into the PMV, we’d go to the places that were affected by the bushfires in the Orbost community,” Private Ligava said.
“I am very happy to be here, my colleagues in Fiji say you are blessed, because you are going to Australia again. I said, it’s not me, it’s God because of his guidance.”
Since arriving for Exercise Coral Soldier, some members of the RFMF have also been assisting on Operation NSW Flood Assist.