1st Lt. Brandy Kinstle
84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — During the past six months, a 13-Soldier detachment from the 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, had its boots on the ground in Palau serving on a Civic Action Team, or CAT, Palau mission.
The CAT Palau mission was a tri-service rotational mission between the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. From August of last year until February of this year, the Army team had led the way and spearheaded or supported many of the U.S. community outreach programs in Palau.
The Republic of Palau is a nation in the Pacific comprised of a small island chain that is home to just under 22,000 people.
The CAT worked on three large-scale community projects and completed two of them during this rotation. The team continued construction on a police and fire substation located in Ngardmau state, which was turned over from the previous Air Force team.
Babeldaob, the largest island of Palau, has only one police and fire substation for the entire island. This additional substation will cut response time in half and ensure that citizens receive timely help in emergency situations.
Staff Sgt. Harold Fellows, 84th Eng. Bn., led construction efforts on the two remaining projects by developing, planning and repairing vital access roads in the capital state of Melekeok, and the second most populous state, Airai.
“To go out into a community, see a need and be able to fulfill that need and better a person’s quality of life leaves an amazing feeling of accomplishment,” Fellows said. “When we started the Airai road project, an older lady in the community had to park at the bottom of the hill a quarter mile away from her home. Once we completed the road, she was so happy to be able to drive her car to her driveway.”
The team employs Palauans from the local community in a yearlong apprenticeship training program that teaches construction skills, vehicle and small engine mechanics, office administration and medical specialist training. The apprenticeship training program provides Palau with educated and trained specialists in job fields necessary for building the nation’s infrastructure.
The CAT mission included medical outreach. Maj. Mitch Hibbard, medical officer and physician, 84th Eng. Bn., provided free medical screening and treatment throughout Palau’s 16 states. He often set up the free clinics in open-air summer houses, visited patients in their homes and made hospital calls for patients whom he treated.
“Many of these people in the remote communities are in desperate need of medical attention but are unable to reach the national hospital located in Koror,” Hibbard said. “It is extremely rewarding to conduct home visits to treat patients ranging in age from one month to 109 years of age.”
The Palauan community was receptive to the team’s actions and welcomed the team into its villages and homes. The team took many activities outside the main areas of Palau and spent time in the outlying states volunteering at schools, setting up and showing movies, hosting a weekly radio show, helping individuals with small construction projects, and supporting local walking, running, biking and triathlon races.
The CAT and the Republic of Palau have a longstanding history, which dates back 43 years — representing 43 years of building quality construction projects.
More importantly, CAT and Palau are building a lasting relationship. The CAT from the 84th Eng. Bn. continued that tradition and looks forward to sending the next team of engineer Soldiers to Palau.