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  • By Joyce McClure

US military getting ready for future Pacific events

Colonia-- A small group of “ocean warriors” made up of U.S. Marines and Sailors is winding up eight jam-packed days in Yap on Friday, Dec. 14. Tasked with promoting “transparency, openness, rule of law, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms” under the banner of Task Force Koa Moana, they focused on a set of capacity-building trainings while on Yap’s mainland and its neighboring island, Ulithi.

Koa Moana, which means “ocean warrior” in Hawaiian, is “a multilateral training exercise that enhances theater security cooperation engagements between allied and partner nations with a collective interest in building military-to-military relations.” Yap is the final stop on the multinational tour that also took them to Tahiti, Vanuatu and Palau.

Translation: What to do and how to do it in the event of outside invasion or other threats to the local government.

Working with twenty Yap State Police officers, exercises included force continuum, search and seizure, evidence collection and defensive tactics, and routine and felony traffic stops. The purpose of the security force support is to increase Yap’s “ability to recognize and combat illicit activities that undermine stability and governance,” explained Capt. Christopher Coulon, Civil Affairs Officer. “Our goals are to promote transparency, openness, rule of law, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is our hope that these values strengthen the economies, governance, and security necessary for a free and open Pacific.”

Hampered by “an adverse sea state” that prevented their ship from arriving and “precluded our engineers coming ashore,” said Capt. Coulon, the small team of experts were able to accomplish a portion of their original mission. In addition to law enforcement training, the team provided training in explosive ordnance disposal for a select group of Yap State Police that covered identification of unexploded ordnance and an introduction to their safe disposal, an important issue on an island that is still finding potentially live munitions from World War II.

Disaster preparedness was also on the list of mission-supported initiatives. “As part of America’s commitment to the FSM and a COFA partner,” Coulon noted, “the U.S. government is one of the leading supporters of developing robust disaster preparedness and response capabilities for the State of Yap.” The task force’s Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team worked with the Disaster Coordination Office to assess Yap’s “capabilities, capacities and resiliencies to respond to natural disasters.” Partners in this effort included the International Organization for Migration, NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services and Yap Fusion, the Yap healthcare system, and Public Works. “The survey also included beach hydrographic surveys both on Yap proper and Ulithi to update decades-old surveys, some of which date to the early part of the last century. These efforts were made to identify how the U.S. Department of Defense might best support, if called upon to assist in disaster relief,” added Capt. Coulon.

Other activities focused on meetings with the traditional chiefs of Ulithi, members of the councils of Pilung and Tamol, Gov. Tony Ganngiyan, Speaker Ted Rutun and other members of the Yap State Legislature. They also conducted five school visits with over 300 students to discuss topics such as human trafficking awareness, the dangers of drug abuse, the importance of a good education and opportunities available to them to serve in the United States armed forces.

More than 200 participants came out for Sports Day to play volleyball, soccer, a basketball tournament and to participate in wrestling with members of the task force. The visitors also offered the opportunity for anyone interested in trying their skills in a portion of the Marine Corps’ combat fitness training called “Maneuver Under Fire” that involves crawling, buddy drags, buddy carries and running with ammo cans. There is no report of who completed those physical endurance tests but congratulations go to all who made the attempt.

Yap’s Lt. Governor James Yangtemai thanks the U.S. for its support during the Koa Moana closing ceremony. Photo by Joyce McClure

During the closing ceremony and presentation of certificates of participation to the Yap State Police officers, Lt. Governor James Yangtemai expressed the state’s gratefulness to the U.S. for bringing both Koa Moana and the Pacific Partnership that visited Yap last March to the state, adding, “We are appreciative for everything the United States of America has done for us here.” Following the lieutenant governor, U.S. Ambassador Robert Riley noted in his remarks that Koa Moana is part of the “U.S. obligation in COFA to defend FSM as we would our territory. COFA has no sunset,” he added, “and will go into perpetuity.”


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