CAT returns from six-month mission
1st Lt. John D. Howard
84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade
8th Theater Sustainment Command
PALAU — Twelve Soldiers from the Civic Action Team (CAT) Palau, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, redeployed in February after a six-month, joint-rotational mission demonstrating the U.S. continued support and partnership with the Republic of Palau.
Palau is located in the Micronesian region and made up of 500 islands, consisting of 16 states.
The U.S. and Palau are connected by the Compact of Free Association, an agreement, which leads the nations to cooperate on a broad range of issues, including strengthening regional security, promoting sustainable development and improving infrastructure.
Welcomed by family members and 130th Eng. Bde. teammates, the return marks the completion of a deployment dedicated to strengthening relationships with the people of Palau.
The highlights of their deployment included nine major construction projects, including road repair and infrastructure improvement; completion of 43 smaller projects, known as technical assists, impacting more than 4,000 residents in Palau; contributing over 1,300 hours of community service over the course of the deployment, supporting local fitness events and schools; and treating more than 500 patients through various medical outreach events.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Ortega and I commend the great work the Soldiers have done during their rotation in Palau,” said Lt. Col. Michael A. Busby, commander, 84th Eng. Bn. “We are extremely proud of their service and how well they represented our organization.”
The CAT Apprenticeship Program provided a unique opportunity to both transfer practical skills and make meaningful relationships in the community. Soldiers led apprentices in various trades, graduating four apprentices in electrical, administration and equipment operation fields. The mission demonstrated diverse capabilities engineers provide in strengthening international relationships.
“One of the team’s most personal and notable construction projects was ‘Buddy’s Memorial at Radar Hill,’ a new World War II memorial to honor the fallen hero Samuel Sylvester ‘Buddy’ Blair of Blair of 321 Infantry, 81st Infantry Division,” said 1st Lt. Breawna Davis, the team’s officer in charge.
“A team of five of our engineers and two apprentices made the 55-mile journey across the sea to the southern island of Peleliu, Palau, to construct the memorial. It was formally presented at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Veteran’s Day 2016 to commemorate the U.S. and Palau shared history and commitment to service,” he explained.
CAT Palau 84-04 invested in the future of the CAT mission by completing multiple infrastructure projects to restore the team’s base of operations in Camp Katuu, Palau. The improvements included expanding the plumbing infrastructure, renovating classrooms for apprentices and installing circuits to support the installation of a tactical data network. The team also conducted port operations to support a massive effort to replace vital engineer equipment in Palau.
“One of the most unique events that CAT 84-04 hosted was a Community Health Fair,” Davis said. “Our team physician’s assistant partnered with local clinics to provide patient screening while team members manned booths providing diet and nutritional advice, workout plans, and even offered people the chance to take the Army Physical Fitness Test. We had over 100 participants attend.”
Davis continued, “The team was involved in the community each and every day. Fit Katuu, affectionately known as ‘Sgt. Garcia’s House of Pain,’ was a daily fitness program for locals initiated and run by the team’s very own Sgt. Jose Garcia. Participants lost up to 40 pounds and learned habits of a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “We also supported events like the Parade of Nations, Palau Marathon, Belau Triathlon, and ‘Career Day’ field trips to show students what the CAT does and what being a Soldier is all about.”
The Army CAT 84-04 officially passed the guidon to Air Force CAT 36-02 on Feb. 17 to complete a rotation marked by countless relationships with the local population and over $101,000 of construction as tangible proof of the strong partnership between the U.S. and Palau.
(Editor’s note: 1LT Howard is the 84th Eng. Bn. unit public affairs representative.)