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U.S. and Philippine forces exchange knowledge and culture during Exercise Balikatan 2008

25 Feb 2008 | Lance Cpl. Jason Spinella

Whether patrolling the open valleys of the Philippine landscape or clearing a triple canopy jungle, U.S. Marines and service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines found that sharing experiences and expertise is what Exercise Balikatan 2008 (BK ’08) is all about.

 Marines and Sailors from Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Feb. 21-28, in order to learn one another’s tactics and help strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

 The weeklong training evolution was comprised of open field patrols, jungle patrols, static and live fire events, combat lifesaver training and an introduction to the Marine Corps Martial Arts program.

 “Every class or training exercise conducted out here is teaching someone, something,” said Sgt. Kurk Linder, a platoon sergeant with the BLT. “The great aspect of this is that it’s a two way street, both sides are benefiting so much just from each other’s presence.”

 Many of the events are simply to brush up on proficiency, while seeing if there is anything one can learn from the other. Meanwhile, the training has shown positive results for both nations’ forces as both sides seem to be very attentive.

 “They’ve taught us how to patrol through a triple canopy jungle, while we’ve shown them combat formations in the hills and open fields,” said Linder, a Milwaukee, Wis., native.

 According to Lance Cpl. Kevin Crawford, a saw gunner with 2/4, the AFP learn extremely fast.

 “They really soak up the knowledge like a sponge, and their so easy to work with,” said Crawford, a native of Jeffersonville, Ind. “The best part is when you are teaching them something, you also learn some things about them and their culture.”

 Not only does training help with a lasting relationship, but simply living with one another in the field day and night helps mesh the cultures together and lets you really see how each other lives, Crawford added.

 “The Philippine Marines and Soldiers are very resourceful and can live off the land, and seem to adapt very well to the environment around them,” said Linder.

 In the end, both services benefit from training alongside one another, but the greatest accomplishment is building and sustaining a long last relationship and bond.

 Exercise BK ’08 is the 24th in the series of these exercises. The term Balikatan is a Tagalog word which means “shoulder-to shoulder” and characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit