CAMP KATUU, Palau (NNS) -- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 Seabees began a deployment in the Republic of Palau Aug. 20 after relieving 130th Engineer Battalion U.S. Army Soldiers as the Civic Action Team (CAT) on the island.
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 programs.
The shift in responsibilities marked the close of work completed by the first Army team sent to Palau in a decade, and also saw the first NMCB 11 team sent to island.
"As ambassadors of the United States and representatives of the Army, the Soldiers of 130th Engineer Battalion have fully supported U.S. Pacific Command' mission," said guest speaker Rear Adm. Paul Bushong, U.S. Defense representative to Palau. "Your team hit the ground running. Each of you quickly engaged in all aspects of the mission, from constructing facilities to sharing your knowledge with others."
Bushong also said incoming NMCB 11 Seabees have his confidence.
"I know you all are well trained and ready for this assignment, and I have no doubt that you will succeed," he said. "I am confident our Seabees will uphold the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment, making your families and our nation proud of the work you will accomplish here."
Chief Utilitiesman (SCW) Sean Stewart, assistant officer in charge of NMCB 11 CAT Palau, said the 13-person team is excited for the mission.
"This being our first time in Palau; we want to ensure we do our best work and do our part to continue building this great relationship with our partners in the Pacific," he said. "We're really looking forward to the opportunity to represent the U.S. military and make our leadership proud."
Col. Jeffery Milhorn, 130th Engineer Brigade commander, said he was pleased with the Army team's performance.
"The relationship between the U.S. and Republic of Palau is extremely unique and vitally important to both nations, and I can see that relationship has continued to strengthen with the Army CAT," he said. "The Soldiers have done more than just complete construction projects and provide training. They have built upon relationships that will serve both nations for years to come. The team has set a standard for future civic action teams to strive to exceed."
While in Palau, CAT Palau Soldiers supported 5K and 10K runs held by various community organizations, helping to promote fitness and health in the community. Team members also offered swimming lessons twice a week to Palauan children, and 1st Lt. Christopher Gensler, the Army team's officer in charge, served as the assistant coach for the Palau National Olympics swim team, which represented the island nation during the Micronesian Games held in Palau Aug. 1-10.
The Army team also conducted maintenance on two World War II memorials on the islands of Peleliu and Angaur and provided medical examinations to more than 500 patients from all 16 states.
Soldiers also had several projects at facilities across the island to support safety, including the construction of a police and fire substation in Ngardmau State.
Soldiers also built more than 300-feet of fencing around Palau High School in Koror State and replaced old light and power switches with newer, safer fixtures.
The Army CAT's apprenticeship program graduated five island residents with administrative specialist, mechanic and equipment operator certificates.
The CAT Palau Soldiers were recognized Aug. 3 by the Olbiil Era Kelulau - or Palau National Congress - which signed a resolution in a show of appreciation for the team's efforts to promote safety, health and education on the island.
Gensler said they were humbled and gratified when they received the resolution.
"There's no words to explain how good it feels to do something and be able to see the positive outcome, in this case between our civic action team and the people of Palau," he said. "It's amazing to know you've made a difference."
Gensler added his team is proud to have been part of a successful mission and a great tradition of partnership.
"I think we more than met our mission goals. We were able to strengthen the bonds between our two nations," he said. "We had an opportunity to use our skills to help others while also getting to know the culture and make friends with the people living in Palau. I wouldn't have traded this experience for any other."
Palau President Johnson Toribiong thanked the Army CAT for their efforts to promote quality of life for Palau's residents.
"The Army team was professional, knowledgeable and a great representative of the U.S. military," Toribiong said. "From their construction projects and apprenticeship program to their community and medical services at the clinic and beyond, they quickly became an important part of our community and we're sad to see them go."
Toribiong also welcomed NMCB 11 Seabees.
"These Sailors are part of a great history between Palau and the Seabees," he said. "As they settle into Camp Katuu, I know the people of Palau look forward to working with them and as they share their expertise with our residents so we too look forward to sharing our culture and heritage with them."
The 130th Engineer Brigade is homeported in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. NMCB 11 is homeported in Gulfport, Miss.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, visit www.navy.mil/local/guam/.