By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez
1st Marine Logistics Group
FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, PHILIPPINES, May 8, 2014 – Philippine and American troops held a May 5 ceremony that marked the start of the Balikatan 2014 field training exercise being held here.
Philippine Army Col. Rodolfo B. Lavadia Jr., Philippine Army Commander, Combined Armed Forces, and U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Zinn, commanding officer of 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and United States Army Commander, CARFOR, addressed the staff and leaders, by detailing the deep relationship between both nations’ armed forces, dating to before World War II.
Balikatan is a bilateral training exercise designed to foster cooperation and interoperability between the two nations’ armed forces through training as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief projects, and to increase stability and security within the region.
“The exercise is broad in scale because it not only involves the Army, but the Marines, Navy and Air Force as well,” Zinn said. “It’s a strong component of the alliance that exists between our armed forces.”
Exercise activities to be conducted by both nations include civil-military operations, jungle survival training and combined arms assault exercises. Units with the 25th Division will share knowledge, experience and expertise with their counterparts from May 5 – 15, with the final week culminating in a live-fire, combined-arms exercise, together with the Philippine Army’s 20th Battalion, 8th Infantry Division.
“We have a deep history in the Philippines,” said Zinn, who hails from Clarksburg, West Virginia. “We fought shoulder-to-shoulder with our Philippine partners [during World War II] to liberate Luzon from the Japanese, so it’s really an honor to be back again in this exercise standing side-by-side with our counterparts.”
Following the drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces may find themselves fighting battles in different environments that require different knowledge and skills. Balikatan provides U.S. service members with training and experience operating in a jungle environment with allied military forces.
“This is the 30th year that we’ve conducted Balikatan with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Zinn said. “This year is especially important and that’s reflected by President [Barack] Obama’s visit [before] the start of the exercise.”
For this year’s exercise, the Philippine army sent its best unit, the 20th Infantry Battalion, part of the 8th Infantry Division, to participate in the training.
“For this year, the battalion of excellence is the 20th Infantry Battalion,” said Philippine Army Capt. Arturo S. Balgos Jr., operations chief with Training Doctrine Command. “The exercise is important for them because it improves their combat capabilities and their interoperability with the U.S. Army.”
At the end of the day, the exercise provides participating troops with opportunities not only to train, but to foster long-lasting relationships and partnerships.
“While we’re very proud of the military training portion of the exercise, we’re equally proud of what we’re doing to understand the Philippine culture and engage their community,” Zinn said. “It’s really something that my soldiers will walk away with and remember for the rest of their lives -- their friendship with the Philippine people.”