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U.S., Philippine Forces to Kick Off Annual Exercise

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2011 – U.S. and Philippine forces will kick off Balikatan, their annual bilateral training exercise, tomorrow in the Philippines, though in a slightly scaled-down form.

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Soldiers from the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, construct an additional classroom at Angel C. Manglicmot Memorial Elementary School in Zambales province, Philippines, March 14, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Mark Palma
  

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The 10-day exercise will proceed “despite a reduction in the number of participating U.S. troops, many of whom are in Japan to assist in relief efforts there in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami,” officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila announced today.

About 6,500 U.S. service members will join their Philippine armed forces counterparts to conduct combined staff exercises, field training and humanitarian assistance projects to improve interoperability, contingency planning, and their capability to respond to natural disasters and other crises, U.S. Army Pacific officials said.

The 8th U.S. Army, with headquarters at Yongsan Garrison in South Korea, announced it would deploy about 500 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, to augment 6,000 U.S. forces already slated to participate.

The goal, officials said, is to increase the two militaries’ ability to respond quickly and work together effectively to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that threaten public safety and health.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. called the bilateral training vital to both armed forces’ readiness capabilities.

“Balikatan is all about our partnership and friendship,” he said. “Our forces train together to help communities where assistance is needed and I look forward to visiting the communities they will serve.”

This year’s exercise, the 27th in the series, will feature four events, officials said. The first, which began before the official exercise start date, involves a series of humanitarian and civic assistance initiatives, including medical, dental, veterinary and engineering projects throughout the country.

Also planned is a scenario-based command-post exercise that practices joint and combined force planning at the headquarters level, and field training exercises that promote cross-training and increase interoperability. In addition, U.S. and Philippine explosive disposal teams will conduct combined-forces training.

The term “Balikatan,” a Tagalog word that means “shoulder to shoulder,” symbolizes the partnership between the two countries as they work together toward a common goal. The annual Balikatan exercise is conducted under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and Visiting Forces Agreement, with U.S. Army Pacific serving as executive agent.

 

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Biographies:
Harry K. Thomas Jr.

Related Sites:
Balikatan
U.S. Army Pacific
State Department Background Note on the Philippines


Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Capt. (Dr.) Jennifer Scruggs, a veterinarian assigned to Western Pacific District Veterinarian Command, administers vitamins to a goat during a civic action program in Zambales province, Philippines, March 24, 2011. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dustin D. March  
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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

4/4/2011 11:25:07 PM
We the Filipinos welcome the exercise. Maintaining and reinforcing this relationship is believed to serve the national interest of the Philippines as it will the US's. This exercise is believed to help provide stability in our country and promote peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region as well. In light of the impacts of climate change that has brought about disasters caused by floods and landslides and the highly unpredictable impacts of geological crustal movements associated with plate tectonics that has caused the 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan thus triggering a massive 10m high tsunami that left thousands of people dead and missing, the moves to be prepared to natural disasters and to provide humanitarian assistance by the military forces of our countries are very much welcome. These are values and commitments that must be admired and looked upon.
- air base, Cebu City, PHL

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