ABOARD USS ESSEX, South China Sea --
Whether the mission is responsive, efficient and effective humanitarian assistance, natural disaster relief or bilateral military training, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is on call 24-hours a day, seven-days a week throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Cross-pollination and working side-by-side on the ground fosters teamwork, but the only way to maximize that strong cohesive bond, is to start from the very beginning.
Operational leadership representing the Armed Forces of the Republic of the Philippines, including members of the Philippine Navy and Marine Corps, are working together with members of the 31st MEU and Amphibious Squadron 11 to iron out details of the at-sea planning sessions in preparation of BK ’09.
“We are here to finalize the schedule of events for the at-sea portion of Balikatan between the U.S. Navy ships of PHIBRON-11, and the Philippine Navy,” said Capt. Joseph Peña, Deputy Commander of the Philippine Fleet Marine Ready Force.
The off-shore planning is expected to yield details of logistics and tactics expected to be implemented during the exercise. Everything from the actual locations to the number of Philippine Marines, sailors and U.S Forces expected to participate in bilateral mechanized, helicopter training raids and humanitarian operations will be thoroughly arranged to ensure the most efficient and effective scenarios are conducted.
Planning as a multinational team will set the tone for the actual execution of individual exercise events, allowing both countries to maximize the benefit of the bilateral training.
“Whenever we deploy to the Republic of the Philippines and have the opportunity to conduct planning prior to the execution of amphibious operations, we gain valuable knowledge from our AFP counterparts,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, 31st MEU Operations Officer. “The cultural and environmental knowledge they have is outstanding for U.S. forces.”
The planning places also a huge emphasis on a community relations projects, Medical and Dental Civil Affairs Programs, and Engineering Projects throughout the Republic of the Philippines, allowing both sides to play a role in improving the health and general welfare of the people of the Republic of the Philippines while promoting a strong relationship between one another and local communities.
“These community relations projects are very important because they show the Filipino people, and the world, another aspect of both the Philippine Armed Forces and the U.S. Navy,” said Peña.
BK ’09 is an annual combined, joint-bilateral exercise involving U.S. and Republic of the Philippines Armed Forces as well as subject matter experts from Philippine Civil Defense Agencies. BK ‘09 is the 25th in the series of these exercises, directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and requested by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.