From Fiji Times Online (6 July 2008)

Michael loves army life

by Geraldine Panapasa

Michael

Most people look forward to joining the British Army not only because of employment opportunities but the challenging aspect of military life. For 26 year-old Michael Joseph Dominiko (pictured), army life was far from his mind.

He is the only pay clerk from Fiji in his division and it is a fact he is proud of. The Lance Corporal was born and bred in Suva.

Michael grew up in Reba Circle, Nadera. His father Mua is from the district of Pepjei in Rotuma while his mother Asera is from Noatau. Life growing up was very hard especially in the barracks or low cost housing. His father did odd jobs while his mother worked as a waitress to help support their family.

Sixth in a family of seven children, Michael had an interest in accounting and economics. He wanted to further his education at the University of the South Pacific but due to financial constraints, he did not have the opportunity. Little did he know, fate had other plans for him.

"We grew up in the barracks and life there was hard especially financial constraints. I never thought of ever joining the army. I simply had no interest at all. We had a big family and even though we faced a lot of difficulties, my parents worked very hard to make sure we had a good upbringing.

"I had always wanted to do something in accounting and economics. I attended primary school at Saint John Bosco in Nepani from 1988 to 1995. I then moved on to complete my secondary education at Cathedral from 1996 to 1999. Fortunately, I was able to complete a Certificate in Basic Accounting. I did my attachment at the Ministry of Fijian Affairs as an accounts clerk."

For Michael, working as a clerical officer was an eye opener. It was through his work at the ministry that he met the deputy permanent secretary's sister doctor Korina Waibuta. He then worked for doctor Waibuta for two years as a medical receptionist. While working as a receptionist, Michael noticed a lot of people had come for a medical clearance for their application to join the British Army. He decided to apply for a place in the British Army. While waiting for word on his application, he completed a Certificate in Computing at NZPTC in 2001. The following year, he was assigned his first choice as a military clerk. He joined the army on June 2, 2002.

"It was my first time overseas but I was really excited. Even though this was something I had no interest in, I was happy doing something better with my life. Being overseas for the first time was a real culture shock for me. I stayed with my sponsors who were Dr Waibuta's family. I lived with them in Wembley London for six months. The training was difficult and life was very tough both physically and mentally. I have never been sworn at before and I got used to this kind of treatment there.

"We underwent a 12-weeks training program. We did all the training including swimming across rivers, hiking and camping out in the cold. The kind of training shown in the movies are the kinds we went through. Despite all the hardships I faced mentally and physically, I was determined to keep going. There were times when I wanted to give up but I kept telling myself I came this far so why quit now."

He said discipline was an important factor of life in the army. Michael said everything had to be neat and tidy including things in their lockers. The desire for a better life was a push factor for Michael especially during the early stages of army life. He said his faith in the Lord also helped him through the difficult times. After pass out, Michael went into trade training. "We had training instructors at Sir John Moore barracks in Winchester, London. We were taught our trade. I really enjoyed training to be a clerk because I wanted to do something in accounting and economics. I was then moved to Saint David's barracks in Bicester. There were 68 Fijians altogether and only one Fijian female. For two years, I was part of 3 Logistical Support Regiment at Delton Barracks in Abingdon.

"I am the only Fijian pay clerk there and I am very proud of that fact. All the Fijians there are close knit and we all try to help each other whenever we can. There are times when we get together to have a bowl of grog and reminisce about life back home. I have my own squadron with 58 people working under me. Even though its hard, I see it as a challenge. I like to help others especially meeting people and making new friends."

After being in the country for five years, Michael will finally get his citizenship next month. He said joining the military has given him a new lease of life.

He has been able to help his family back home as well as visit places he never thought he would visit. Some of these include France, Belgium, Germany, Kuwait and Qatar. He has been to Iraq three times for operations.

"Determination and passion for army life is what got me this far. If people want to join the army they have to be fit not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well. The army is about being disciplined and there is a high level of fitness. There are so many career paths and opportunities if one has the determination and passion to succeed. All the hardships have made me even more determined to live a better life and to provide a better life for my family," said Michael who will fly out of Fiji today.