Balikatan exercise

US troops arrive in Philippines for ‘largest-ever’ Balikatan exercise

Rappler.com
US troops arrive in Philippines for ‘largest-ever’ Balikatan exercise

BALIKATAN 22. US Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 (VMM-363), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, arrive at Subic Bay International Airport ahead of Balikatan 22 in the Philippines.

US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

The US embassy says 5,100 US military personnel will join 3,800 Filipino soldiers in the annual joint military exercise that will begin on March 28

MANILA, Philippines – Over 5,000 US military personnel will participate in this year’s Balikatan exercise (Bailkatan 22), which will take place in various areas in Luzon from March 28 to April 8.

The US embassy in Manila said in a statement on Tuesday, March 22, that Balikatan 22 will be the “largest-ever iteration” of the joint military exercises which coincides with the 75th anniversary of US-Philippine security cooperation.

The embassy said 5,100 US military personnel will join 3,800 Filipino soldiers for training on “maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.” 

“Balikatan is a critical opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Philippine allies toward a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,’ as our Indo-Pacific Strategy calls for,” said US Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava. 

Major General Jay Bargeron, US 3rd Marine Division Commanding General, said that during Balikatan, Philippine and US troops “will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges.” 

Bargeron also said, “Our alliance remains a key source of strength and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” 

Major General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Exercise Director for Balikatan 22, said that annual military exercises “is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and United States’ security relationship.”

“The experience gained in the exercise complements our security cooperation endeavors and will help to enhance existing mutual security efforts,” Gaerlan added.

US troops arrive in Philippines for ‘largest-ever’ Balikatan exercise

The US embassy said Balikatan 22 will also feature a command post exercise that tests the two militaries’ ability to plan, command, and communicate with each other in a simulated environment.  

“This training will bolster the collective security and defensive capabilities of the alliance,” the embassy said.

The joint activities will also include the renovation of elementary schools, community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques. 

The US embassy said that participating US troops would observe all Philippine COVID-19 regulations, including maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks during exercises “as operationally feasible.”

Balikatan was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but resumed in April 2021.

In October 2021, the AFP said that the Balikatan exercise would be back in full scale in 2022 – the last under the Duterte administration – and that over 300 activities were lined up for the event. – Rappler.com

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