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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2020

Task Force Oceania plays pivotal role in Defender Pacific 2020

By Staff Sgt. Solomon Navarro U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs Office

In a show of commitment to the nation of Palau and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) Soldiers from Alaska, Washington, and Hawaii took part in a training exercise on the island of Anguar as part of Defender Pacific 2020 (DP 20).

Two Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 9th Mission Support Command (MSC) Task Force Oceania were instrumental to the planning, coordination and execution of the exercise.

Task Force Oceania is a newly formed 9th MSC Task Force consisting of Soldiers from all components of the U.S. Army – active-duty, Army Reserve and National Guard. Their mission is to provide continuous presence in Palau and other Pacific island countries across Oceania, assist the U.S. embassy, and reinforce lasting and meaningful relationships in the region.

DP 20 brought over 125 Soldiers and a Logistics Support Vessel carrying two High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to the tiny island of Anguar, Palau. An exercise of this size and scope was unprecedented for the island nation.

“The plan to execute DP 20 requried a great deal of coordination,” said Maj. Matthew “Gamble” See, Task Force Oceania liaison team officer-in-charge for Palau. This plan included coordinating four branches of the US Military to clear and improve the Anguar Airfield for C-130 operations. In addition, as part of the Embassy’s Country Team, I engaged state and national government entities to secure support, permits and approvals for the exercise to move forward.”

See added, “This plan allowed for validation of C-130 operations out of a second airfield in Palau, the anchor of the second island chain. It also provided proof of concept for clearing and certifying an airstrip in a remote area of the world under tight time constraints. This not only bolstered support locally for U.S. military presence, but also sent a powerful signal regarding our capabilities and commitment within the region.”

“From my perspective, it is vital for the [United States] to demonstrate a persistent presence here in Palau and across the greater Indo-Pacific region,” said U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessy-Niland. “We have enjoyed a partnership for the past 75 years with Palau, and it is as strong as ever. Military elements such as the civic action team, Task Force Oceania liaisons, and exercises like Koa Moana 20 and Defender Pacific play important roles in demonstrating that presence and commitment.”

The two Soldiers of Task Force Oceania’s Team Palau were hand-picked for their specific talents and experience. Maj. See is a seasoned civil affairs officer with many years of experience. Civil affairs operations consists of a multitude of tasks with a primary emphasis on engaging with the civilian population within the area of operation.

Sgt. Florence Yanglimau, the cultural non-commissioned officer for Team Palau, was born on the nearby island of Saipan and is a native to the region. Yangilmau was handpicked to serve as a cultural liaison because of her intimate knowledge of the people and culture of Micronesia and her familiarity with the native language.

“Assisting with this exercise was very rewarding, but playing a part in the building of this airstrip in Anguar was especially meaningful because I know it will help the people of Palau,” said Yangilmau.

“I am proud of my heritage as a native to this region, but I am also very proud to be an American Soldier,” Yangilmau added. “To serve both the people of Palau and the U.S. Army [as part of Task Force Oceania] is a unique experience, and I feel fortunate to have this opportunity.”

Task Force Oceania stands ready to support U.S. allies in the Pacific and is a demonstration of the United States’ enduring commitment to the people of Oceania.