KOROR, Republic of Palau -- Members of the Palauan community filled the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center to bid farewell to the Seabees of Civic Action Team (CAT) Palau 133-28, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, during a transition of authority ceremony Aug. 16.
CAT 133-28 turned over responsibility following their six-month deployment to U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 84th Engineer Battalion who make up CAT 84-06. The mission of CAT Palau is to maintain a favorable U.S. presence in the Republic of Palau, supporting agreements and obligations made under the Compact of Free Association, and support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s (USINDOPACOM) cooperative engagement strategy in the Republic of Palau.
“Today we are gathered together to honor the great work of our dedicated Seabee team,” said U.S. Ambassador to Palau Amy Hyatt. “We are grateful for all that you have done over the last six months, you have every reason to be proud of your accomplishments”
During CAT 133-28’s deployment they accomplished many construction feats, but the Sailors cherished the relationships they built with the citizens most of all.
“I feel that the best part of being here in Palau has been the relationships we have been able to establish with the local population. The Palauan’s have taken us in and treated us like family,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bartle, CAT Palau 133-28 physician. “The six months that I have been out here has been amazing, this opportunity, CAT Palau, it’s like a unicorn in the Navy. You get to kind of focus your efforts in the areas that you feel passionate about to make a difference in the community so it has been really rewarding,”
The CAT 133-28 team has had a busy tour in Palau culminating in three large construction projects, more than 100 technician assist, training 13 Palauan apprentices and graduating three during the ceremony, providing medical treatment to 800 patients and providing more than 250 man-days of community relations support.
“The last six month have been the most rewarding assignment in my military career,” said Army Capt. Brendan Condron, CAT 133-28 outgoing officer-in-charge. “When we arrived, I was not expecting the heartfelt welcome we received from the Palauan people. It has been a privilege working hand in hand with the local apprentices, government and community.”
Navy Capt. Steve Stasick, commodore of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment says the CAT mission has stood the test of time and carries on the long-standing friendship between the people of Palau and the U.S. military.
“This ceremony represents the lasting commitment on the part of the United States and the Republic of Palau to improve quality of life, maintain safety and security and nurture the mutually beneficial relationship that our nations share,” said Stasick.
The Soldiers of CAT 84-06, such as 1st Lt. Kirsten Walsh, the incoming officer-in-charge, look forward to getting to work and adding to the legacy of the CAT in Palau.
“To the people of Palau, thank you for welcoming my team with warm arms to your beautiful island from the moment we arrived,” Walsh said in her ceremony speech. “It is an honor to be part of this historic partnership between the United States and the Republic of Palau.”
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.