PH, U.S. troops claim victory in Tarlac ‘assault mission’

Rambo Talabong

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PH, U.S. troops claim victory in Tarlac ‘assault mission’
The Philippine and US armed forces bring out their equipment for an explosion-filled exercise in Crow Valley, Tarlac

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine and the United States armed forces on Wednesday, April 10, united for an assault mission in Tarlac.

Across the historic Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base (formerly called Crow Valley), some 200 Filipino and 300 American soldiers dispersed on foot and tanks, and aboard helicopters and fighter jets.

Soldiers laid waste to the valley as the mission called for a joint attack of the air force and army.

It was all just scripted.

The live-fire exercise is the biggest in the Balikatan exercises, the annual exercise which aims to oil the interoperability of the old allies’ militaries. (READ: PH, U.S. armed forces open Balikatan 2019)

The exercise stretched from 9 am to 12 pm, beginning with a voice-over reminding all present that the Philippines and the United States have in place their 6-decade-old Mutual Defense Treaty.

What did they do?

The drill began with an attack on the grounds of the imaginary enemy, executed by field artillery units from both the US and Philippine forces.

Bombardment from planes followed the barrage from ground units.

All movements in the valley were prompted by the practiced voice-over conversation of an American and a Filipino commander.

COMBINED EXERCISES. The Army and Air Force of the Philippines and the United States join forces for the live-fire exercise in 2019. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

From there, troops were ordered to move forward. The first ones to go to the frontlines were US soldiers, who were tasked to assault two cars. Filipino soldiers followed.

After the enemies were weakened came another round of attacks. Again, the ground artillery units left the field in smoke, after which airplanes bombed the same area and swooped down to conduct surveillance.

Then victory was declared.

Why does this matter?

The combined drill comes at a time of rising terrorism threats in the country and the region. The Philippines, in fact, is still reeling from the urban battle of Marawi.

Na-experience na natin when we had our Marawi, nakita natin ‘yung significance nung kinakailangang  i-adjust natin ‘yung ating operational tempo (We already experienced this when we had our Marawi, we saw the significance of the need to adjust our operational tempo),” said Lieutenant Colonel Louie Villanueva of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The grand exercise was also held amid talks of revising the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty, which is currently being examined by the Philippine Department of National Defense. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.