Permanent Secretary for Defense and Security and Search and Rescue (SAR) Director, Osea Cawaru opened the Fiji Initial Air Observer Course at the Airports Fiji Limited (AFL) Training Academy in Nadi this morning.
The inaugural program is conducted by the Maritime New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre and includes over 20 personnel from AFL, the Fiji Navy, Fiji Police Force, Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji and pilots from Sunflower Academy.
Cawaru commended the initiative, noting that equally important to this specialized training was an imperative need to improve SAR efforts in Fiji.
“The review of our national search and rescue system is important due to the key challenges posed by our geographical location, the distribution of populace, limited resources and our reliance upon relationships and systems,” he said.
PS Cawaru was also encouraged to note that most institutions represented at the program have adopted an interdisciplinary approach and collaborated.
“This coordination has also been enhanced through the sharing of new robotic and virtual reality technologies by respective agencies, with the help of volunteers to assist in the process and to do so in an engaging and interactive way.”
The three-day program includes sessions on the role of on-scene commanders in aerial searches, with a practical SAR exercise to commence on April 3.
Cawaru acknowledged and thanked the agencies for their work in the SAR and salvage of the Cessna 172 in Labasa earlier this year.
“On the flipside, the incident has challenged our SAR apparatus with queries raised in Parliament and the public through social media and I salute the brave men deployed to the site and ground coordinators of air assets on the job well done.
“In my role as Director SAR, I fully subscribe to such capacity building, especially when it involves air, maritime and land assets.”
Also represented were personnel from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), which manages the Pacific Search and Rescue Arrangement (PACSA).
At the conclusion of training, the program aims to form a roster of participating agencies and personnel for any future SAR events.