U.S., Philippine Forces Begin Bilateral Balikatan Exercise
By Marine Corps Sgt. Isis Ramirez
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific News Release
CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines, May 6, 2014 Senior military leaders from the armed forces of the Philippines and the United States, together with government officials, began Exercise Balikatan 2014 here yesterday, a week after U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Philippines and reaffirmed the “ironclad” alliance between the two nations.
A combined joint color guard presents the flags of the Philippines and the United States at the start of exercise Balikatan 2014 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Philippines, May 5, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isis Ramirez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Balikatan, which translates to “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral exercise that focuses on the Philippine-U.S. partnership, cooperation and commitment to their Mutual Defense Treaty, officials said.
“The skills that we'll learn, practice and hone shoulder-to-shoulder in Balikatan in the next two weeks will not only make our two nations more capable, but also allow us to assist each other, as well as other nations, should the need arise,” said Marine Corps Col. John A. Rutherford, officer in charge of the exercise support group. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of this time here in Balikatan. Work hard, but most importantly, learn from your brothers and forge stronger and closer bonds. The interoperability and friendships you build here will serve us well the next time we respond to the call.”
About 2,500 U.S. and 3,000 Philippine service members will take part in the exercise, which consists of a series of humanitarian civic assistance projects, a scenario-based staff planning exercise focusing on maritime security, and interoperability field training exercises throughout the island of Luzon.
This year, the Australian Defense Force also will play a supporting role, participating in humanitarian civic assistance activities and field training exercises and providing maritime security mentorship and aviation surveillance capabilities.
As with past Balikatan exercises, the Philippine and U.S. militaries will conduct medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action projects to improve their interoperability in such missions. A team of about 15 U.S. medical professionals will travel to Tacloban, the city hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda last year.
“More than just a joint military program that aims to enhance our combat readiness, this Balikatan exercise has continued to evolve into an activity that surpasses its original intent,” said Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye of the Philippine air force, the exercise director. “To this date, Balikatan reflects the enduring commitment of both countries armed forces to promote regional peace and security by ensuring interoperability and readiness of both forces.”
With the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement on April 28, the Philippines and U.S. pledged to continue strengthening an already robust military alliance and further build up capabilities.
“Exercise Balikatan is a prime example of the benefits that mutual security cooperation can bring to both our countries, by strengthening our armed forces, improving communities and developing relationships,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. “The successful response to typhoon Yolanda began with exercises like this one. Regular bilateral training and operations develop strong bonds and effective teamwork, which enable rapid and effective action in times of crisis.”