Feature

Ensign Sokoilagi- First Of Many

Made Ensign last month, the woman from Verata, Tailevu, is an assistant navigator on board the RFNS Savenaca.
04 Mar 2021 12:50
Ensign Sokoilagi- First Of Many
Bridge watch keeper Ensign Mereseini Sokoilagi with Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto on the bridge of the RFNS Savenaca. Photo: Laisa Lui

Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto has praised the lone female Bridge Watch Keeper naval officer on board the RFNS Savenaca.

Mereseini Sokoilagi, who made Ensign last month, is the first female naval personnel to hold a certificate for Bridge Watch Keeper.

Commander Naupoto said Ensign Sokoilagi was the first of many female naval officers who would follow her.

Background

The 26-year-old from Verata, Naloto, Tailevu, is the eldest of four children.

With maternal links to Mualevu Village in Vanuabalavu, Lau, Ensign Sokoilagi never dreamt she would join the navy.

In 2017, she graduated with a Medical Science Degree from the Fiji National University.

Before joining the navy, she wanted to experience working in the medical field and become a doctor or a nurse, in the pursuit to help people.

There was tough competition in the field, but when she saw the Fiji Navy advertisement, she decided to try out for it. Her plan was to go through the recruitment and then join the lab tech field.

Beginning with the recruitment phase, she joined as a physio in the navy’s rugby team, and later joined the sick bay.

“So when the time came to join the lab, I was told there was more things that I needed to learn in the navy before they put me to the lab,” Ms Sokoilagi said.

“While waiting for my acceptance letter, I tried out for the rank of an officer. I did not expect to pass because I did not have a sports background back in high school. I was more into my academic work.

“I got a shock when my name got selected and with my parents support I tried it out as I get to learn and do new things, out of my comfort zone and travel to places.”

The former Adi Cakobau School scholar was sent to New Zealand to do a six-months course on navigation (Bravo Course), which she completed in August 2020.

Crew members of the RFNS Savenaca pictured here with Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto. Photo: Laisa Lui

Crew members of the RFNS Savenaca pictured here with Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto. Photo: Laisa Lui

Area of work

Ms Sokoilagi is serving on the bridge of the RFNS Savenaca as an assistant navigator.

Her job is to plot the tracks of the journey – navigate the vessel in terms of the safest and fastest estimated time of arrival.

If there was any danger whatsoever, she would have to inform the lead navigator who then informs the commanding officer. In case the vessel goes off course, she has the task to direct them on how to get back on track.

These could be caused by the wind and sea current speed and direction.

Prior to Ms Sokoilagi joining the navy, her parents questioned if it was really worth the sacrifice. However, she had great support from her parents and was blessed with the many opportunities she received after she was recruited.

“I thought it was going to be hard, but what made it easy for all of us was that I respected their boundaries, they respected mine,” she said.

“I respected their work instead of trying to pretend that I know everything and I let them do what they know best. They have been very helpful ever since I have been posted on board.

“The greatest challenges I faced was trying to adjust to the routine, the work and have a commanding presence among the people who have been doing this work for a longer time. The moment we got to know each other, it got easier.

Message of inspiration

“Impossible things can happen! Some things don’t work out the way you plan it but somehow God has other plans for you. Just because some things don’t work out now, you never know that other paths you will take will actually be better,” she said.

“If you’re facing any challenges right now, don’t get discouraged by it. Keep working hard, keep pushing and keep trying.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: laisa.kabulevu@fijisun.com.fj



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