General Provides Insight into Joint, Bilateral Exercise
By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009 The U.S. military is building relationships as well as local infrastructure as it participates in Balikatan, a joint, bilateral exercise in the Philippines, the U.S. director for the exercise said.
“This particular effort is the 25th in the series as far as U.S. and Philippine participation,” Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey said during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable.
Bailey is deputy commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and U.S. director of Balikatan 2009.
“The term Balikatan is a Tagalog term which means ‘shoulder to shoulder,’ and for us it characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise,” the general said.
The exercise helps about 22,000 people in need, Bailey said, and involves humanitarian and civic assistance, a scenario-based staff exercise and field training activities.
“We’ve got six medical civil-assistance projects, six engineer civil-assistance projects, and 15 community-relations projects,” Bailey added. “So that’s what we, as joint forces, are doing in conjunction with the Philippine force.”
The joint forces are installing two wells, building two schools, and creating two roads that will be finished by the end of the exercise, and they’re providing medical, dental and veterinarian work for those in need, Bailey said.
Because of the size of the exercise this year, the general said, the joint forces have much more capability to accomplish their goals.
“There are about 4,700 sailors, soldiers, and Marines on the U.S. side involved in this, and roughly around 5,200 [Philippines armed forces members] involved,” Bailey said. “This is one of the largest, in terms of scope and size of Balikatan, in the 25 years that we’ve been conducting this thing.”
Bailey said another positive aspect of Balikatan is its cost-effectiveness.
“For example, two wells, two schools, and two roads -- it’s about … $340,000,” he said. “We’re seeing about 22,000 Philippine citizens from the medical perspective. That will cost us about $77,000.” The money spent is a small investment for what the United States gets in return, the general added.
“The key [for the United States and the region is] to build relationships and friendships, so in case there is a problem or a time of need, you’re not starting from ground zero,” Bailey explained. “So I think we’re getting a lot for our money and, most importantly, a lot of people in dire need in the Philippines are getting some wonderful support and service.”
(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby serves in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)