Feature

Fijian Woman Defies All Odds To Join US Army

My duties will include preparing spaces for worship, managing supplies, and ensuring the security and safety of the chaplain during combat situations. 'It is time for us as women to take a stand in honour of our independence. '
24 Feb 2020 10:42
Fijian Woman Defies All Odds To Join US Army
Private Praneeta Mani.

A Fijian woman has proven that age, gender and race hold no barriers when you want to achieve something.

At the age of 31, when some women prefer to pick a slower life, Private Praneeta Mani chose to join the United States Army.

Ms Mani said that she is the only Fijian soldier of indo fijian descent in her unit at the military training faculty at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

The former Tilak High School student recently graduated from a 10 weeks basic combat training.

She said the training, was where they learned to handle weapons, rappel and march through teamwork and discipline.

“After basic combat training is AIT.  This is where we learn the skills to perform the army job, we receive hands-on training and field instructions to be an expert in that specific career field,” Ms Mani said.

“We also gain the discipline and work ethic to help us no matter what path we later take in life.

“The work is physically and mentally demanding and challenging. We experience stress and it tests our limits.”

Ms Mani is now undergoing the Army Individual Training (AIT), which she will graduate from March 6, 2020, at Washington State (Fort Lewis).

After graduating, Ms Mani said, she would be reporting as a religious affairs specialist.

Whole platoon, 4th from right (standing first row)

In the US army, a religious affairs specialist supports the unit chaplain and commander in responding to the needs of soldiers, family members, and other authorised personnel.

“My duties will include preparing spaces for worship, managing supplies, and ensuring the security and safety of the chaplain during combat situations,” she said.

The Ba-born soldier endured many challenges from the cold and long morning runs to resuming her mathematics studies after 13 years.

“I had to wake up as early as four o’clock to go for runs in the cold, and these runs went for miles and miles,” Ms Mani said.

Taking up mathematics after so long was one of two major challenges that Ms Mani encountered during her military training.

Acting upon the advice of her army recruiter, she signed up for college math refresher courses, and after two months, she passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) with satisfactory scores.

“The most difficult part for me was improving my ASVAB score because I haven’t done math for about 13 years and all of a sudden, I had to take this math test,” Ms Mani said.

“After that I was tested on my running, I had to do shuttle runs and I was constantly running out of breath, so on every second day I started running to improve my run time,” she said.

Ms Mani said she wanted to be an advocate for women who felt they could not achieve their career goals because of gender and age differences.

“It is time for us as women to take a stand in honour of our independence,” Ms Mani said.

“It is a must that we as women put forth the necessary effort to try and excel at everything we strive for.

“The work that others doubt is doable, and it is even better to find that the work one did actually make a difference in society as a whole.”

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