CROW VALLEY, Republic of the Philippines --
Marines fought side by side with the Philippine armed forces in World War II. Fighting for their freedom and the promise of peace, a brotherhood was formed between them.
Today, Marines with the 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, keep that brotherhood alive as they train side by side with the Philippine Armed Forces.
Philippine and U.S. Marines are working together in a bilateral Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, as part of the Amphibious Landing Exercise, Oct. 27.
“We are conducting a bilateral mortar exercise with the Philippine Marines,” said Cpl. Cpl. Samuel Potenti, a Marine with Weapons Co, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “Their weapon systems are older, but they still get the job done and it is impressive to see them do it."
During the training event, Marines of both nations conducted fire missions together, trained each other on methods used and got the chance to interact.
“I’m actually teaching these guys how we operate; it’s a unique experience seeing the similarities between us,” said Potenti.
Between fire missions, the Marines passed the time by talking with their Philippine counterparts, telling stories of past deployments, trading souvenirs and learning about each other’s culture.
“It’s a good interoperability experience learning how the U.S. Marines move and how we do things,” said Philippine Marine Maj. Joel Bonavente, an operations officer, with the Philippine Marine Corps. “We have had a chance to acquire some skills and knowledge from them on tactics, techniques and operating procedures.”
Working with Philippine Marines and seeing a different culture was beneficial to everyone involved, but especially to the junior U.S. Marines, many of whom have not been to the Philippines before.
“The experience is worthwhile and should be continued,” said 1st Lt. Rory H. Smith, the Platoon Commander of Mortar Platoon, Weapons Co., BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “It builds awareness and provides young Marines with a world view.”
Gaining experience that can be passed down to their junior Marines as they mature in the Marine Corps, today’s junior Marines will lay the foundation for the success of future exercises with the Philippine service members.
The Philippine Marines gained a lot of experience out of the exercise as well, learning tricks of the trade from the U.S. Marines that can be applied during their own training events.
“It’s a good experience,” said Bonavente. “We have a good training relationship between our nations and get to exchange a lot of knowledge.”
As the exercise concluded, the Marines of both nations left with new friends and maintained the brotherhood between the two nations.
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.