Submitted by Coleen R. San Nicolas-Perez, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Joint Region Marianas
Outgoing and incoming officers-in-charge of Palau’s civic action team, Air Force Capt. Jerrod McComb (left) and Lt. j.g. Rhett Johnson (center), receive encouraging words from Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, Pacific Command’s Defense Representative for Palau. Photo by Lt. Timothy Gorman
Seabees from the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) relieved airmen from Pacific Air Forces A4/7 in a civic action team (CAT) change of charge ceremony, Camp Katuu, Palau, Aug. 8.
CAT Palau fulfills U.S. Pacific Command’s engagement strategy by directing and supporting the civic action program in community construction, apprentice training, medical assistance and community relations.
“Without the support of Palau’s government and local community, we would not be able to fulfill our promise to protect and safeguard Micronesia,” said the event’s guest speaker Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, U.S. Defense Representative to Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.
The CAT program has run for 44 years on Palau and is the continuation of a bond formed with the United States since World War II. The countries are now joined under a Compact of Free Association, which allows the U.S. to operate militarily within the region in exchange for economic assistance.
Cmdr. Bryce Gibb and Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, Pacific Command’s Defense Representative for Palau, receive a brief on Palau’s maritime domain awareness from Lt. Cmdr. Alan Willmore of the Royal Australian Navy and Keobel Sakuma of Palau’s Office of the President, Koror, Palau, Aug. 7. The American and Australian navies are assisting Palau in developing ways to patrol its exclusive economic zone. Photo by Lt. Timothy Gorman
Civic action teams operate for six-month assignments and rotate between the Army, Air Force and Navy teams. The 13 Seabees of CAT 133-25 under the direction of Lt. j.g. Rhett Johnson relieved the 13 airmen of CAT 36-01 under the direction of Air Force Capt. Jerrod McComb.
“Since the day we arrived on island, we were welcomed like family into your small island community,” McComb said to a crowd of about 100, which included several local civic leaders. “This is a testament to the positive impact the CAT has made over the last 44 years and we are proud to have continued that tradition and continued to strengthen that bond between our two nations.”
CAT 36-01 completed several key projects in Palau including the resurfacing of a 1.5-mile road, the treatment and education of more than 1,000 patients, and the repair of a water cistern on the island of Sonsorol. CAT 36-01 also graduated three Palauans from a one-year apprentice training program.
The team’s crown jewel may have been the reconstruction of a 500-square-foot deck at the Bloody Nose Ridge Memorial on the island of Peleliu. The airmen lugged tools and lumber more than 300 feet up Umurbrogol Mountain where they assembled and treated the deck just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu.
Air Force Capt. Jerrod McComb (standing, left), officer-in-charge, PalauCivic Action Team 36-01, briefs Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, Pacific Command’s Defense Representative for Palau, on his team’s six-month deployment, Camp Katuu, Palau, Aug. 8. Photo by Lt. Timothy Gorman