Feature

Elena Balawakula Forges Ahead In Career As A Solider With Right Frame Of Mind

While on holiday in the UK, she saw the many opportunities the British army had to offer her as a young woman seeking independence.
14 Feb 2020 13:07
Elena Balawakula Forges Ahead In Career As A Solider With Right Frame Of Mind
Elena Stanley Balawakula (lying on the ground) with a fellow intake during her intensive 14 weeks of training at the British Army Training Centre Pirbright.

Joining the British Army was not in 21-year-old, Elena Stanley Balawakula’ plan, for later life.

Sapper Balawakula did not grow up wanting to be a soldier, but after a holiday in the United Kingdom (UK) in December 2018, her mind was made up.

The young private, who hails from Gau, in the Lomaiviti Group and with maternal links to Oneata, Lau, said that people’s perception was that life in the army was like being in a war zone.

“They do not really see the many opportunities it offers,” Ms Balawakula said.

Based in Warminster, Salisbury, the young private claims to be one of the youngest Fijian females to join the Corps of Royal Engineers(RE).

She aspires to be a design draughtsman in the architectural field.

“I’m joining the Royal Engineers.I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any Fijian females in that company,” she said proudly.

While on holiday in the UK, she saw the many opportunities the army had to offer her as a young woman seeking independence.

“My family back in Fiji was so shocked and wondered why I wanted to join,” she said.

“I told them that I wanted to be independent and I saw so many opportunities the army had to offer to me as a young woman.”

Susana Todua, Elena Stanley Balawakula and Mereani Saqanavere on the day of their intake on February 7, 2020 at the British Army Training Centre Pirbrigh.

Susana Todua, Elena Stanley Balawakula and Mereani Saqanavere on the day of their intake on February 7, 2020, at the British Army Training Centre Pirbright.

Private Balawakula said she applied to join the British Army the following year, in February while still in the United Kingdom.

“My application took some time while I was waiting, I had to return to Fiji in June 2019,” she said.

That did not deter her. The former Adi Cakobau School student trained with colleagues here in Fiji who were also aspiring to join the British Army.

Three months later, upon receiving her selection letter, she left her homeland and prepared for a few weeks for her selection in Glencorse, Scotland.

“Knowing that I was leaving Fiji to go to the UK to join the British Armed Services and not for holiday was nerve-wracking,” he said.

“But I had a positive mindset and had all the support on both ends.”

Throughout it all, her mother was her biggest motivator and adviser to persevere.

“She’s my provider and inspiration, she’s the reason I do what I do in the army, my family as well, without them I wouldn’t be here today,” Private Balawakula said.

Upon successfully passing selection, she survived another 14 weeks of training at the British Army Training Centre Pirbright.

She said those 14 weeks were the most difficult phase of her recruitment, which followed many injuries, but Private Balawakula never gave up.

“There are good days as well and those days are always after bad days where you feel like giving up, but you can’t because you’ve come so far and you don’t want everything you’ve sacrificed for to go down the drain,” she said.

“But I had the right mindset to get through because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

“Our bond grew so strong as the weeks went by, encouraging each other and supporting each other when we didn’t have anyone else. No matter where you put a group of Fijians we always know how to make it our home.”

Among the recruits, were other Fijians, one male and three females who successfully completed the courses on February 7, 2020.

Susana Todua and Mereani Saqanavere, the other two successful female recruits will be joining the Royal Logics Corp in the British Army.

Feedbackjennis.naidu@fijisun.com.fj

Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper