News: Balikatan 2014 comes to a close
Story by Sgt. Isis Ramirez
CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines – Exercise Balikatan 2014, between the Philippine and U.S. armed forces, officially ended here May 16, being named a “resounding success” by the Philippine exercise director, Philippine Air Force Maj. Gen. Emeraldo C. Magnaye.
Balikatan, which translates to “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, is an annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military focusing on the Philippine-U.S. partnership, cooperation and commitment to their Mutual Defense Treaty. The closing ceremony at Tejeros Hall marked the completion of the 30th iteration of the exercise.
“For the past two weeks the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States armed forces, with the Australian Defence Force, have been training to expand our capability, training to enforce our interoperability and working to heighten our readiness, so we can assure increasing traditional and expand non-traditional military roles,” Magnaye said.
Together, while aiming to gain understanding to enhance their civic assistance interoperability, the forces achieved countless real-life humanitarian civic assistance projects to bring medical, dental, veterinary and engineering projects to the people of the Philippines.
In Palawan, military leaders conducted a staff exercise where they practiced solving complex crisis response scenarios. The experience gained through these types of interactions between multinational forces can be applied during disaster response situations like that of Typhoon Haiyan or other natural disasters.
In the arena of field training, the forces exchanged and practiced a variety of skills ranging from amphibious landings to jungle survival training to air operations. The training culminated at the final event, the combined arms live fire exercise, where the AFP, Australian Defense Force and U.S. military carried out a synchronized assault on an objective and the Philippine forces showcased their joint rapid reaction force.
Considered a successful completion of the 30th Balikatan, senior military leaders at the ceremony highlighted the strides the exercise has taken over many years. U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Richard L. Simcock II, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, recalled his experience as a young Marine lieutenant who came to the first-ever Balikatan as an infantry platoon commander.
“Having participated in eight iterations over the past 30 years, I have seen how the exercise has grown and matured to meet the requirements of the region,” Simcock said. “Most recently, I have seen Balikatan evolve from a bilateral exercise - to one that is a multilateral. Last year Australia sent a few observers. This year, over 60 Australian service members fully participated. That was monumental.”
Simcock also said he hoped that the Australian participation would bring more regional allies and partners to continue to grow the Balikatan exercise.
Altogether, approximately 2,500 U.S., 4,000 AFP and 65 Australian personnel participated in this year’s Balikatan.
Also in attendance at the closing ceremony was the honorable Under Secretary of National Defense Honorio S. Azcueta, Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy Brian L. Goldbeck and Philippine Army Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.