KOROR, Republic of Palau --
The U.S. Air Force Civic Action Team (CAT) Palau 36-02 was relieved of duty by U.S. Navy CAT 133-27 during a change of charge ceremony Aug. 11, 2017, at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center, located in Palau’s Koror state.
This team was comprised of 13 Airmen from the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Each member brought a unique and highly specialized skill-set that advanced construction capabilities, apprenticeship training, medical outreach and community relations opportunities while deployed to the Republic of Palau.
Teams rotate every six months between the Air Force, Army, and Navy and have been around for 30 years.
“The CAT team personally uses their training and skills including technical, leadership and customer service abilities to improve genuine, personal and professional relationships between the United States, the Government of Palau and the individual citizens of Palau,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matt B. Castillo, CAT 36-02 assistant officer in charge.
During their tenure, they planned and completed 113 construction projects, treated 563 patients, hosted 22 talk radio shows that addressed medical concerns, hired 10 apprentices, organized 12 community relations events and maintained six World War II memorials.
All projects resonated with the team, but one stood out due to time constraints and magnitude. The team restored three schools’ water collection and purification systems, which accounted for 339 man-hours. Their efforts resulted in cleaner drinking water for schools and villages, enhancing drought preparedness. The success of this project benchmarked a pilot program that will be used for seven additional schools in the community.
By collectively working with Palauan’s, the team made significant improvements and expanded opportunities for future CAT teams.
“The Civic Action Team is a beacon of this friendship,” Castillo said. “This concept of Civic Action is intended to have the same positive effect wherever and whenever we enact it.”
Another vital aspect of the mission is to provide quality on-the-job and classroom training. In doing so, they are providing local residents the opportunity to expand and build construction, administrative and mechanical skills.
CAT Palau graduated two Palauan apprentices, Dillion Basilius and Giovanni Palacios. The certification ensures they are fully qualified in their respective career field, which will have a direct impact on Palau and their community.
“The best way I can state the importance of the CAT is to quote a Palauan friend,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Franklin, CAT officer in charge. “The U.S. and Palau have a very close friendship that is formalized in bi-lateral agreements and treaties between our countries, but where the rubber meets the road is the Civic Action Team.”
By the time the mission was complete, everyone viewed each other as family and wanted to recognize civilian and military accomplishments. CAT Palau held an award ceremony for the first-ever Palauan’s to receive a full scholarship to the U.S. Naval Academy, along with a military reenlistment and promotion.
“The CAT is where Palauan’s and Americans actually brush shoulders, help one another, and build true friendships,” Franklin said.