‘Balikatan’ beneficial for all participating militaries: AFP spox

MANILA The annual "Balikatan" exercises has always been fruitful for all participating militaries, a ranking military official said Friday.

"The 'Balikatan' has always been a fruitful military-to-military engagement whereby all participating armed forces, especially that of the United States of America, the Philippines and others that attended as observers," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the 35th iteration of "Balikatan" at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He said this year's "Balikatan" is no exception to this concept.

"It provided the opportunity to test individual and collective capabilities of the participants and their interoperability in both joint and combined combat and humanitarian assistance operations. It established that both nations can rely on the other and each other to combat contemporary and evolving global and regional security challenges," Arevalo said.

About 4,000 Filipinos, 3,500 American and 50 Australian troops participated in this year's Balikatan exercises, which began April 1.

On Thursday, Philippine and US Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force service members conducted a bilateral amphibious exercise (AMPHIBEX) at the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in Zambales.

The AMPHIBEX landing, which involved the movement of assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) from L-class ships to shore, demonstrated the bilateral force's ability to seize a littoral objective as part of a complex, combined arms operation between Philippine and US ground, naval and aviation assets.

"The amphibious exercise remains a relevant training opportunity for both the Philippine and US military forces, as it further enhances our capabilities during operations from sea to land," 8th Marine Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Rommel B. BogAalbal, said.

"It allows us to be more effective in the rapid deployment of troops from ship-to-shore under hazardous circumstances, whether during dangerous natural disasters or hostile enemy actions," BogAalbal added.

During the execution of the AMPHIBEX, a team of US Marines launched AAVs from the USS Wasp (LHD-1) to seize a beach at NETC, to enable a follow-on team of Philippine Marines to land.

The Philippine Marines aboard US AAVs then launched from the landing platform dock ship BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and conducted the main effort attack on the objective. The Philippine and US fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft provided tactical and logistical support throughout the amphibious and ground maneuvers.

The AMPHIBEX (showcased) all the reasons 'Balikatan' is such an important and valuable exercise, Marine Air-Ground Task Force 4 Col. Jason Perry said.

As a US Marine Corps expeditionary force in readiness, training like this provides us an opportunity to integrate with Philippine and other US forces to rehearse and refine our ability to project combat power ashore from the sea, he added.

This year's AMPHIBEX was particularly important for the Philippine and US militaries because the AFP will begin using its own AAVs later this year.

It also allowed Philippine and US crewman to share best AAV practices, techniques and procedures with one another, to assist in the development of the AFP's new AAV doctrine.

The AMPHIBEX is also the culminating event of a broader series of joint Philippine-US interoperability training exercises during Balikatan 2019, which also included a combined arms live-fire exercise, military operations in urban terrain, and aviation operations. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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