TERNATE, Republic of the Philippines --
Marines and sailors with Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrive here April 6 to train alongside the Philippine Marine Corps as part of exercise Balikatan.
Company B, known as Blackfoot Company, will be conducting bilateral drills and training events with their Philippine Marine counterparts throughout the Ternate area to further improve the two forces’ interoperability and strengthen their long standing relationship.
“Balikatan gives the Marines of 1/5 the opportunity to share our (tactics, techniques and procedures) with our Philippine Marine counterparts while learning from them what years of operating in a jungle have taught them,” said U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marcus D. McAllister, the BLT’s operations chief for the exercise. “The (General Gregorio Lim Marine Base) has some great training areas for a boat company and gives the Marines the opportunity to conduct beach landings, objective patrolling, jungle survival and land navigation in an environment we just don’t see back at Camp Pendleton.”
Of the roughly 150 Marines and sailors participating from the 31st MEU, very few have trained in the Philippine jungle before.
“Because this is my first deployment, I am able to pick up on a lot of the techniques the Philippine Marines use,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Randall T. Carey, an assaultman section leader with the company and a native of Fort Collins, Colo. “We have a good amount of training ahead of us, and I am excited to get out there and put some rounds down range.”
Balikatan is an annual Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement. As a signature element of our nations’ robust alliance relationship, Balikatan is scheduled from April 5 to 17.
“Year after year, the Marine Corps sends its Marines to this exercise to train with these (Philippine) Marines and strengthen our ties,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Mitchell W. McNeil, a rifleman with Company B and a native of Wetstone, Ariz.
Balikatan, meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder,” characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance. Now in its 29th iteration, this exercise exposes a constant rotation of new Marines to their Philippine counterparts in a Pacific jungle environment.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.