U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Sebastian Villagomez, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Task Force Koa Moana 21, I Marine Expeditionary Force, straps down a large piece of unexploded ordnance during Palau’s first buried disposal in Melekeok, Republic of Palau, Oct. 13, 2021. Task Force Koa Moana 21 is a unifying mission that fosters enduring cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Palau. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Atticus Martinez)

KOROR, Republic of Palau – U.S. Marines and Sailors with Task Force Koa Moana 22 have continued the work from previous TFKM iterations, conducting projects and subject matter expert exchanges throughout the Republic of Palau from June 19 through July 29, 2022.

Task Force Koa Moana is designed to strengthen and reinforce relationships between the U.S. and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific while enhancing interoperability with local security establishments. The annual task force fosters peace and security, improves capabilities, and develops relationships with partner nations. Since 2015, TFKM has demonstrated U.S. commitment to the region and a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

This commitment to the region goes beyond just the U.S. Marine Corps. The service members that participate in TFKM are committed to the projects completed and the relationships built with the members of our partner nations. Over the last three years, several service members from previous iterations of TFKM have returned to continue their work and build on the relationships formed.

Staff Sgt. Jackie Tran, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Response Element Leader with TFKM 22, was also a member of TFKM 20. Tran and his team completed various projects with the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) during TFKM 20, including surface area clearing in Peleliu, expansion of the airfield in Angaur, and sharing of knowledge and best practices in dealing with Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) with the NPA.

“Initially, in Koa Moana 20, we didn’t get access to live explosives, so the main focus was subject matter exchanges with the NPA, sharing knowledge and best practices,” said Tran. “This year, we were able to conduct explosive effects demonstration ranges, building on efforts from previous years and showcasing the

effects on UXO.” These efforts showcase the continuity the service members of TFKM demonstrate to the region.

The EOD team was able to build on the efforts from TFKM 21. “During Koa Moana 21, we participated in the disposal of over 4000 pounds of explosives and the consolidation and destruction of UXO around the airfield in Peleliu,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Sebastian Villagomez, an EOD Response Element Leader with TFKM 21 and 22. “The relationships we kept with the searchers with the NPA were instrumental to continuing this work and improving on previous efforts.”

The annual TFKM exercises have allowed service members to strengthen relationships with local agencies, complete various projects, and improve joint operations to help make the Republic of Palau a safer place.

“Koa Moana 20 located the boat mines and UXO that my team and I destroyed during Koa Moana 21. We returned to Peleliu during Koa Moana 22 with more awareness of how to complement the National Safety Office’s efforts and work alongside the NPA to dispose of UXO,” said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tony Delmont, the EOD officer in charge with TFKM 21 and 22.

“This year, I wanted to make the explosive effects range a more inclusive effort that would develop trust and confidence in the comradery that is natural throughout the international EOD community.”

The explosive effects range ran during this iteration of TFKM demonstrated the effects of various explosive charges on different types of UXO in a controlled environment. Prior to executing the range, the task force coordinated with the Palau National Safety Office, allowing the NPA and the Marines to work together on the range.

“The NPA and Koa Moana efforts throughout the years help increase capabilities in Palau, working towards ensuring the country is less impacted by the presence of Explosive Remnants of War,” said Anthony Wyles, Programme Manager, Norwegian People’s Aid.

Marines and Sailors from Task Force Koa Moana 22 are in the Republic of Palau from June to August 2022. Named “Koa Moana” after a Hawaiian/Polynesian phrase meaning “ocean warrior,” the task force is designed to strengthen and reinforce relationships between the U.S. and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region and enhance interoperability with local security establishments in support of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command strategic and operational objectives.

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