U.S. Navy Seaman Apprentice Etonia Malo and Royal New Zealand Air Force Leading Aircraftsman Adi Koro are living proof of the saying, “it’s a small world.” Classmates at Suva Primary in Fiji more than a decade ago, Malo and Koro are now serving together on Pacific Partnership 2023.
“I was in the same class as his little sister. He was a grade above me,” said Koro. “My first day boarding the ship, I walked onto the brow and he was there working. I didn’t know he was in the U.S. Navy, had no idea. It was a good surprise.”
Koro joined Pacific Partnership 2023 at the fourth mission stop in Suva as the Fijian Cultural Advisor.
“I’m the Fijian Cultural Advisor. I advise the mission staff, mainly the Chief Protocol Officer, on what to do, what not to do, and what to expect when there are cultural happenings,” said Koro.
Growing up in Fiji, Koro learned about the Fijian culture from her dad.
“Growing up, I was more in touch with the cultural side of things,” said Koro. “My dad would make sure we went to family events; make sure we were there to see the ways of the Fiji culture, like what women do and what the men do.”
Malo is assigned to the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and has been with the ship since the start of the mission.
“I’m an undesignated seaman, so I work with the [boatswain’s mates],” said Malo. “I am part of the ship’s crew, so we are supporting Pacific Partnership through going to outreach events, sporting events, and the concerts.”
Malo joined the Navy after receiving his U.S. permanent resident card through the Diversity Visa Program.
“Joining the Navy was a stepping stone for me,” said Malo. “I was unsure of what to do, so I joined the Navy to find my path and direct my future plans for the next five years.”
While serving on Pacific Partnership, Malo has participated in a variety of outreach events at many of the mission stops.
“I’ve done a lot of community outreach, getting to know the locals. That’s the main experience we get – not the sites or attractions – it’s interactions with the locals,” said Malo. “It’s given me a different perspective that’s opened my mind to other lifestyles and cultures.”
In Fiji, Koro attended many of the outreach events with mission staff and advised leadership on cultural practices.
For example, Koro explained what actions to take when at official ceremonies, such as if the mission commander is presented a whale’s tooth, or during happy celebrations when people bring baby powder and spread it on others’ faces. Ultimately, her role was to bridge the gap between multi-national cultural considerations and protocol.
Both Koro and Malo appreciated the opportunity to visit their homes in Fiji and to be around people from their hometown.
“There’s a lot of new changes, but it was good to go home after seven years,” said Koro. “In New Zealand, the Fiji community is small. Coming back home, it’s nice to see Fijians everywhere.”
“I took leave the first four days we were here,” said Malo. “My whole family still lives here – my parents and my sister – I’m the only one in the states.”
Koro and Malo met up once again at the touch rugby game during the Fiji mission stop.
“The rugby game was fun,” said Malo. “I got to teach some of my fellow shipmates the rules of the game, so it was quite fun.”
“I didn’t know he played sports,” said Koro. “But it was obvious he plays by the way he played rugby.”
Being on the same mission with his primary school classmate, Malo feels a sense of Fijian community on the ship.
“Before she was here, I spoke all English,” said Malo. “Now I get to speak my mother tongue and be more expressive in my mother tongue.”
Koro is welcoming to the diversity of the ship and the chance to get to know more people from different cultures.
“It’s been good coming on the ship and seeing a wide range of ethnicities,” said Koro. “I’m grateful to be here.”
For more information about Pacific Partnership, visit www.facebook.com/pacificpartnership, www.instagram.com/pacific_partnership/ or https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/C-LGWP. Pacific Partnership public affairs can be reached via email at [email protected].
This work, Fiji Primary School Classmates Reunite on Pacific Partnership 2023, by PO2 Deirdre Marsac, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.