KOROR, Palau -- Following training exercises in Thailand and the Philippines, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, continued their tour of the Pacific as they landed in Palau to participate in Exercise Palau which ran from April 13-19, 2019.
Exercise Palau consists of community and animal health outreach services throughout the island nation, and also security cooperation operations with the 5-20 Inf. Reg., also known as Task Force Regulars, performing an airfield seizure demonstration, marksmanship training, and a training area reconnaissance.
The exercise falls under Pacific Pathways, an annual U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) operation, demonstrating the U.S. Army's commitment to the Palau nation, and security cooperation for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Exercise Palau is the first time a major U.S. Army task force has come to Palau to train since the signing of the security agreement in 1982. The exercise also a demonstrates that the U.S. is committed to the long-term security of Palau.
"Although we came here to do squad level training and to do a training area reconnaissance, the overall focus of the mission was to build the partnership," said Capt. Andrew Kohlsdorf, company commandeer of A Company, 5-20 Inf. Reg. "We came to Palau for the first time in 37 years so we wanted to let the people know that the United States is committed to Palau and to the security agreement."
From the moment the Regulars stepped on the tarmac at Palau International Airport, their training started with an airfield seizure demonstration in collaboration with the Palauan Security Forces. The airfield seizure is not a normal operation for the 5-20 Inf. Reg., but demonstrated their flexibility and capabilities.
"Typically, this kind of mission is reserved for a special operations unit, but USARPAC gave us the mission and we executed it," said Capt. Luke Schumacher, the intelligence officer in charge at the 5-20 Inf. Reg. "We were notified three days prior to executing the airfield seizure which is a pretty big muscle movement for a unit like ours.
Following the airfield seizure demonstration, the 5-20 Inf. Reg. spent the next six days bivouacked at a training area that was set aside as a part of the security agreement. At the training area, the Soldiers trained in rifle marksmanship at a 25-meter flat range that was built in cooperation between USARPEC and Palauan security officials.
"You can do a lot on a 25-meter flat range," said Kohlsdorf. "We started off with rifle qualifications just to maintain readiness and continued on with advanced rifle marksmanship."
1st Lt. Keanuhua Dunn, a platoon leader with 1st Paltoon, A Co., 5-20 Inf. Reg., also commented on the rifle training at the 25-meter range for rifle training.
"We did a lot of short range marksmanship and practiced close quarters battle where you use shoot on the move and dynamic shooting. There is a ton of training value out of this type of shooting in comparison to a qualification range" said Dunn. "We have been fortunate on Pacific Pathways to have been able to do a lot of these short-range marksmanship ranges. This is our bread and butter for infantry soldiers."
From their camp, Soldiers with the 5-20 Inf. Reg. were also sent out to different parts of the training area to do a reconnaissance of the land for future missions to Palau.
"We have taken a multi-pronged approach to recon the training areas. We used our battalions' scout element to do a reconnaissance by ground. We also did it by water, boat and by air." said Schumacher. "The goal is to characterize the environment better so we understand what is available here for our use in the future, and to understand some of the constraints and opportunities of this training area."
Breaks in the training allowed the Soldiers time to participate in local culture and build relationships with the Palauan people.
"The Soldiers loved being in Palau. Palau is a beautiful country and the people were beyond hospitable and extremely welcoming to us," said Kohlsdorf. "I can't say enough good things about the people of Palau."
Following Exercise Palau, the 5-20 Inf. Reg. will deploy back to the Philippines and continue their Pacific Pathways mission until the end of May.