ZAMBALES, Philippines – They named the fictitious country Calabanya for the purposes of the Balikatan war games. Its relationship with the Philippines was strained to a point that Calabanyan forces were deployed to invade Luzon.
They occupied Zambales, the playground for the amphibious assault demonstration on Tuesday, April 21.
An American soldier read the scenario aloud: "On March 22, the Mutual Defense Treaty was invoked and a US Joint Task Force was formed to restore the territorial integrity of the Philippines. The US Joint Task Force aggregated forces in Palawan, conducted Maritime Pre-positioned Force operations, and embarked a combined landing force."
As he continued to read, the country's top security officers looked out into the sea where they saw 21 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) coming out of the American USS Green Bay docked not so far away. The AAVs rushed towards the shore while choppers hovered above the area.
Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
The AAVs were carrying up to 400 American and 200 Filipino Marines who belonged to the landing team that was going to save Zambales from the Calabanyan invaders.
The amphibious vehicles roared their way from the waters to the shores of Zambales, swirling the sand on their path as they moved to their targets.
The Marines appeared one by one as they got off from the vehicle and then they ran to take their positions with their firearms and mortars.
Working together, the American and Filipino Marines encircled the enemies and defeated them. They succeeded in taking back Luzon from the Calabanyans. (Watch the war games here)
Based on the scenario, the Americans have been conducting operations in Zambales as early as April 16 or less than a month before the MDT is invoked. A separate assault force is also conducting air assault in nearby Crow Valley, which will be demonstrated next week as the last event before Balikatan 2015 closes.
It transported officials and troops to the venue of the Balikatan war games
The AAV is the main transport of US Marines assault teams, bringing them and their equipment safely into territories where the location of the enemies may not be immediately known. The Philippine Marines does not have them, but it's reportedly in the process of acquisition.
"The amphibious landing force is supported by 21 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV), 4 UH1 Cobra, two UH1 Hueys, and two AV8 Harriers which will provide simulated close air support. Also supporting this landing exercise is the USS Green Bay and LPD-20 class amphibious ship," the American continued reading.
Biggest war games
The biggest Balikatan war games in 15 years kicked off on Monday, April 20, against the backdrop of China's continuing reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Beijing's activities have alarmed not only claimant countries but others that use the sea routes for trade and commerce.
About 200 kilometers from their playground in Zambales is Scarborough (Panatag) shoal, a fishing ground for many locals until the Chinese Coast Guard took it in 2012 following a tense stand off. The Chinese are now driving away Filipino fishermen from the area, depriving them of their livelihood.
The exercises are led by the commanding general of of the Palawan-based Western Command (Westcom), Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez. Westcom is the unified command responsible for the country's territorial defense.
Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler
Brigadier General CJ Mahoney, deputy commander of the United States Marine Corps Forces in the Pacific who serves as the assistant exercise director for Balikatan, was here to watch the demonstration.
"The training you witnessed is a prime example of sharpening the sword and bolo. In partnership with the Navy, the Marine Corps is a force perfectly designed and suited for both crisis response and the Asia-Pacific maritime environment," Mahoney said.
The Philippines has sought US assistance in the maritime row. The US has repeatedly said it is not taking sides but it supports the peaceful resolution of the conflict and has slammed China's unilateral actions in the South China Sea. (READ: Obama: China's neighbor's must not be 'elbowed aside') – Rappler.com