KOROR, Palau -- The U.S. 7th Fleet Far East Brass Band played four concerts to celebrate 50 years of the Civic Action Team (CAT) and the partnership between the U.S. and Palau to more than 1,500 students at schools throughout Palau, starting Aug 12.
The brass band is in Palau to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the CAT, which was created in 1969 by the U.S. Department of the Interior and carried out by the Department of Defense. Initially a Navy led program, the Army and Air Force began their involvement in 1970. The three services rotate deployments to Palau every six months.
“Thus far, all of our performances have been for the school kids which we love doing,” said Chief Musician Brandon Schoonmaker, a native of Newhaven, Ind. “The next couple of public performances will be for the general public for all ages. We will play some music and put some smiles on people’s faces and get to interact with the people here in Palau. It’s the best part of the job,” he added.
The band is scheduled to play a free public concert Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ngarachamayong Culture Center. They are also slated to perform at the Koror Night Market Friday, Aug. 16.
“The Navy band is the greatest thing to get to experience here at Palau High School,” said Jay Beraquit, a senior at Palau High School. “I got to get out and dance with the band and have a good time. And being able to hear such great music and information about the CAT team and what they do for Palau … it was a fun afternoon in school.”
The U.S. 7th Fleet Band strives to bring music and cultural experiences to people of different backgrounds.
“It gives us an opportunity to connect one on one with people,” said Musician 2nd James Brownell, a native of Miami, Fla. “I am really looking forward to the rest of CAT week’s musical engagements; they will be a lot of fun.”
Playing for a group of students provides the band members as much enjoyment as they provide for the students.
“I doesn’t matter how many concerts I do, it’s always a surprise when you see a kid come out and dance or express themselves,” said Musician 3rd Class Jared Goodrum, a native of Albuquerque, N.M. “When they come out and dance and have a good time I get hyped, I get excited no matter how tired I am.”
For the band members, who are stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, getting to interact with Palauans has been a highlight of the trip.
“Being here in Palau has been amazing. The people are so welcoming and the audiences have just been fantastic,” Schoonmaker said. “We have played two performances each day at local schools and the children have just been great audiences.”
CAT Palau provides community construction support to the host nation, assists and trains apprentices with general engineering skills, facilitates a medical outreach program and coordinates community relationship programs. CAT Palau is an integral part of the U.S. mission to assist and support the development of the Republic of Palau through agreements made in the Compact of Free Association between the two nations. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the CAT mission in Palau.