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  • By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Houston/ 128th Mobile

Exercise 2019 marks largest U.S. Army presence in Palau

The Palau exercise, which ran from April 13 to 19, included community and animal health outreach services at several sites including Koror, Peleliu and Angaur. Also, there will be security cooperation operations with the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division. Additionally, a local road will be repaired and widened, which leads to a training site for the Palauan Security Force's future use.

Through civic action and training, Exercise Palau is a demonstration that the U.S. is committed to the long term security of Palau as outlined in the Compact of Free Association and has been long desired by the people of Palau. The exercise falls under the Pacific Pathways concept, which aims at strengthening partner relationships and aids to ensure Palau builds sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economic growth.

"This exercise is a direct reflection of our commitment to the security and defense of Palau," said Amy Hyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Palau, during a press conference held after the infantry unit's arrival.

Private 1st Class Benjamin Alley, an infantryman serving with A Company, 5th Battallion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, stages in a security posture while more of his fellow soldiers exit a C-130 Hercules on Palau International Airport, April 13, 2019, as part of Exercise Palau. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney C. Houston

"When (U.S. Navy) Admiral Philip Davidson was here, the president of Palau asked the admiral to bring more army exercises, because there hadn't been any in decades. The next thing we know, Pacific Pathways' exercise locations included Palau as one of their training sites. So Admiral Davidson was good on his word, and the Palauan people are happy to have the (U.S.) Army here."

On arrival, the 5th Bn., 20th Inf. Reg., demonstrated how to secure an airfield with the collaboration of the Palauan Security Forces. This was the first of many training exercises to be held throughout the week.

"The securing of the airfield that you see here was done with the collaboration of Palauan Security Forces," said Lt. Col. Douglas Graham, who

serves as commander of the 5th Bn., 20th Inf. Reg., 1-2 SBCT, 7th Inf. Div. "Over the next week we'll conduct many more training events like this, and we'll be looking at training areas that will benefit both U.S. and Palauan Forces in the future."

A unique aspect to the exercise is three enlisted Palauan Soldiers returning to Palau to participate in the island's brand new exercise. The citizens of Palau under the COFA agreement have been able to join the U.S. Armed Forces and have been heavy contributors in U.S. foreign campaigns.

"It's humbling to know that Soldiers from Palau enlist at a greater rate than almost any other state," Graham said, "and that seven have sacrificed their lives in the last decades keeping their fellow man safe and free. It's an honor to serve with the likes of our Palauan Soldiers here."

The relationship between the U.S. and Palau is strong, important and based on mutual respect and cooperation. Through participation security

cooperation with a focus on the human element makes for a more secure and free Indo-Pacific.

"It's a great story for us and Palau," Graham said. "I understand that there has always been a deep relationship between our militaries, and it's nice to be able to honor our commitments with the COFA, and it's an honor to be able to hopefully start a new chapter with this exercise."

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