By Jamie L. Espina

KOLONIA, Pohnpei (Marianas Variety, Sept. 19) — The end of the U.S. military’s Civic Action Team program in the Federated States of Micronesia will mean not less, but actually more assistance under the new Humanitarian Assistance for FSM, or HAFSM.

This was according to Lt. Hely Gonzales, commander of the last Navy CAT team to serve in Pohnpei, which closed down Camp Combs late last month and deported this week.

The 13-member CAT team was honored with a dinner early this week at Camp Richie, named in honor of the late Richard Oliver, who died while serving with the U.S. Army, by the Oliver family.

The CAT program was terminated because the amended Compact of Free Association between FSM and the U.S. "doesn’t call for the CAT," Gonzales said.

CAT teams from the different U.S. services have been deployed to the four FSM states as well as Palau to undertake various projects over the past 35 years.

Only the CAT program in Palau, which has a Compact of its own with the U.S., will continue. The end of the CAT program in the FSM also means an end to a permanent U.S. military presence, said Gonzales.

However, he said, the HAFSM, mandated by the new Compact, "actually provides for wider assistance to Pohnpei and the FSM."

For example, he explained, "under CAT, we were limited only to our geographical region" and the original Compact limited the members of each team to only 13. Under the HAFSM, "there are no limits on where (humanitarian assistance may be deployed) or how many (personnel) are sent," Gonzales said. "The need dictates the number."

He said an engineering survey assessment team recently arrived and met with FSM national and state leaders to discuss projects they hope to start next year under HAFSM.

"More than 20 projects have been submitted," Gonzales said. "What a state wants, it can get, assuming the funds are available."

Gonzales said he and the members of CAT team 0701, all from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, were aware that shutting down the program in Pohnpei was part of their mission when they deployed here in June.

He admitted to being "a little torn insofar as we all wanted to stay longer."

"But," he added, "we knew what our mission was." "With change comes opportunity and we believe the FSM will be better off under the new HAFSM program,"

Gonzales said as he recited his CAT team’s motto, taken from Shakespeare, "All is well that ends well, still the finish is the crown."

September 19, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com 


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