FORT MAGSAYSAY, Republic of the Philippines --
The sound of metallic items clanging against each other rang through the air as integrated crews of Philippine and U.S. Marines loaded the massive rounds into the chambers of the M777 A2 Howitzers.
Following the orders to fire, the howitzers bucked and dust flew as they hurled their massive projectiles downrange to the intended target.
Marines with Battery K, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted bilateral artillery training during the Amphibious Landing Exercise.
During the training event, U.S. Marines worked hand-in-hand with their Philippine counterparts in fully integrated gun crews.
Firing the M777A2 Ultra Light-Weight Howitzers, the Philippine Marines had the chance to load, aim and fire the weapons with the Marines of Kilo Battery, 31st MEU.
"We have been out here about a week and been training with Philippine Marines the entire time," said 1st Lt. Robert Wells, the executive officer of Battery K, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. "They have integrated into the gun line and have been able to load, aim and fire the howitzers."
Working in the integrated teams, the Marines from both participating nations were able to teach each other how they operated on the firing line.
"We got to see how they operate and the different types of gear they use," said Cpl. Zach Maki, a fire direct controlman with Battery K, 3/11, 31st MEU. "They get to see how we operate and shoot artillery, and that helps all of us get better overall."
It also gave them a chance to interact with each other on a personal level as they conducted fire missions.
"It has been a good experience," said Wells. "The Philippine Marines got a lot out of it and our Marines got to see how a different military operates and how the local citizens live out here."
As the exercise continues and the Marines of both nations conduct bilateral training exercises, the Marines have a chance to make friends with their Philippine counterparts.
"We built a lot of camaraderie between ourselves and the Philippine Marines out here with us," said Sgt. Cody Bigham, section chief, Battery K, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. "That was the best part of the exercise for me. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about the Philippine Marines."
PHIBLEX is an opportunity to conduct training which is vital to maintaining the readiness and interoperability of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines military forces.
The 31st MEU is operating in support of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade for the exercise, is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the United States' force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.