KOROR, Republic of Palau -- Dignitaries, high chiefs, the Bilung-Gloria Salii of Koror, and dozens of Palauan well-wishers filled the confines of the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center to bid farewell to the U.S. Air Force 36th Civil Engineer Squadron airmen of Civic Action Team (CAT) Palau 36-03, Feb. 15.
During the change of charge ceremony, CAT 36-03 was relived by Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 CAT 133-28.
“The U.S. Embassy is proud to have the CAT team as an integral part of our mission,” said U.S. Ambassador to Palau, the Honorable Amy Hyatt. “They are a wonderful symbol of our country, our people and our values. The important work they do enhances our bilateral relationship and makes vital contributions to the people of Palau.”
During CAT 36-03’s six-month deployment in Palau, they accomplished many construction feats, but the airmen cherished the relationships they built with the citizens most of all.
“From random barbecues and family style meals on the beach, to being invited to a neighbor’s very first open house and enjoying the moment with their relatives, you have never failed to make all of us feel like family and that we belong here,” said 2nd Lt. Colin Quitta, CAT 36-03 officer-in-charge.
The airmen completed many more tangible projects as well, including the Palau Visitor’s Authority renovation and the Maris Stella Playground. They also trained 10 apprentices in a variety of trades related to the construction field with two apprentices graduating from the program during the change of charge ceremony. The CAT medical program completed school screenings at nearly every school in Palau. The airmen of 36-03 didn’t slow down when the construction efforts were done for the day, either. They engaged the community with their House of Pain fitness program, basketball tournaments, swim lessons, and a weekly radio show.
“They demonstrate creativity and tenacity every day to overcome challenges and get the job done,” Hyatt said. “It’s that warmth and Can Do spirit that we celebrate today. America’s greatest strength is not the example of our power but the power of our example.”
The CAT mission carries on the long-standing friendship between the people of Palau and the U.S. military.
“The relationship between our two nations in important now more than ever as we work to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific and ensure our economic sea lanes are secure,” said Navy Capt. Steve Stasick, commodore of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment. “Without the support of Palau’s government and local community, we would not be able to fulfill our promise to protect and safeguard Micronesia, a commitment that was established when the U.S. came ashore on Peleliu during World War II.”
The Seabees of CAT 133-28 are motivated to add their fingerprints to the friendship between the U.S. and Palau.
“The community could not have been more supportive while we were getting our feet under us here in your beautiful country,” said Army Capt. Brendan Condron, CAT 133-28 officer-in-charge. “I’m looking forward to working hand in hand with all of you as we continue the legacy of over 80 civic action teams before us.”
The Civic Action Team Palau provides construction support to the host nation, assists and trains apprentices with general engineering skills, facilitates a medical outreach program and conducts community service projects. CAT Palau is an integral part of the U.S. mission to assist and support the development of the Republic of Palau through the Compact of Free Association between the two nations. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the CAT mission in Palau.