Exercise Palau was conducted April 14 - 19, and consisted of U.S. Army security cooperation engagements mostly conducted in the state of Gnaremlengui, and medical health engagements focused on veterinarian, mental and oral health in the Palauan states of Koror, Peleliu and Angaur.
Exercise Palau purpose was to strengthen relationships, cultivate readiness and demonstrate the U.S. Army's resolve to support the security, economy and infrastructural interests of Palau and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific as outlined in the Compact Of Free Association between the United States and Palau.
Several distinguished and central figures in the exercise's establishment spoke during the closing ceremony, and focused on important historical elements of the strong relationship between the two nations, and a strong resolve to continue to develop the partnership between them.
"The Pacific Pathways exercise comes at an important time in history. As you know 2019 is a very big year here in Palau. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Palau, by U.S. Forces," said Amy J. Hyatt, who serves as the U.S. ambassador to Palau. "It also marks the 25th anniversary of Palau's independence, and the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Palau."
Hyatt went on in her speech to highlight key milestones reached since the COFA between the two nations was established, as well as the United State's commitment to the nations' security and defense.
"Let's take a moment to reflect on all that has changed in those intervening years: A healthy democracy and free government is in place that is responsive to the people. A free market economy exists that contributes to the livelihood of the Palauan people," Hyatt said. "An educational system that includes special education, head start, and all the way through college to raise the children of Palau and to help Palauans compete in a new global order.
Palauan Vice President and Minister of Justice, Raynold B. Oilouch gave his remarks after the U.S. ambassador. He expressed his gratitude for the presence of the approximate 150 Soldiers, and all that Exercise Palau encompassed, as well as high hopes for continued U.S. Army exercises in the near future.
"I'm sure I speak for most Palauans, that it is good to see so many men and women in uniform walk our streets. They do make us feel good," Oilouch said. "I want to mention our appreciation for the medical outreach that was provided for the Peleliu and Angaur states, as well the veterinary services provided in Koror. Not only were our people positively affected by this exercise, but so were our beloved pets."
Part of the security cooperation exercises was the development and repair of a dirt road leading to what would be the training area for the exercise, and would serve as a new training site in an adjacent state for Palauan security forces.
"I must thank the U.S. for opening up the new shooting range in Ngaremlengui, because we can no longer use the range we have in Ngardmau. I know the people from Ngaremlengui are grateful that the U.S. was able to improve the dirt road that leads to the training site," Oilouch said. "On the same note I want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the governor and legislature, traditional leaders, and all of the people of Ngaremlengui state, for agreeing to host the U.S. Army exercise in their state."
Although there has been many smaller scale military exercises over the years held in Palau by Navy Seabees and Marines, Exercise Palau was the first robust exercise that drives U.S. commitment to security. The vice president expressed gratitude and in good humor a hope for continued Army exercises in the future.
"I know there have been many military exercises conducted in Palau in the past, but this is the first time in over 30 years that the United States Army, has conducted a training exercise in Palau," Oilouch said. "I hope that you will all agree that this training exercise has been very successful, and with the success of the exercise, I am confident that we will not have to wait another thirty years to see Army Soldiers on the ground here in Palau."
Brig. General John D. Kline, who serves as the deputy commanding general for the 7th Infantry Division, validated Oilouch's sentiment and confirmed future follow-on exercises in Palau. Kline also reiterated the importance of such exercises in establishing a means to comply with commitments outlined in the COFA.
"Fortunately the Army, with the permission of the government of Palau fully intends to return here next year for a couple of events," Kline said. "It's so important, because we recognize that through the security of the Indo-Pacific region is what allows the beautiful nation of Palau to improve economic growth as well as the health and education system in a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive way to improve the overall prosperity of your citizens."
Kline also expounded on less prominent, but extremely important aspects of Exercise Palau, such as demographics and needs obtained through the exercise for future engagements, and preparation in the case of a natural disaster.