News: USS Tortuga underway for Exercise Balikatan 2013
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner PHIBRON 11 Public Affairs
EAST CHINA SEA – The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) departed White Beach, Okinawa, to participate in the 29th iteration of the annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. Military exercise Balikatan.
Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement. As a signature element of our nations’ robust alliance relationship, Balikatan will take place in the Philippines from April 5 to 17.
“The armed forces of the Philippines and U.S. military have a longstanding relationship,” said Cmdr. John Barnett, commanding officer, USS Tortuga. “Balikatan contributes to regional security and stability as well as strengthening our roots of cooperation with the Philippine people.”
During the exercise, military medical personnel will offer free medical, dental and veterinary care. Military engineers will construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities.
“This exercise helps us maintain a high level of interoperability,” said Barnett. “It enhances military-to-military relations and combined combat capabilities.”
The exercises performed focus on training both U.S. and Philippine armed forces with the goal of providing assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that may occur.
“Exercises like this allow our sailors and Marines to get to know their Philippine counterparts and develop lasting partnerships,” said CDR. Douglas Patterson, executive officer, USS Tortuga. “It helps give us a better understanding of their operational style so we can work together more efficiently as well as provide assistance to local communities.”
In addition to field exercises, military service members from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Camp O’Donnell, Crow Valley, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay to improve interoperability and contingency planning.
Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.