CLARK AIR BASE, PAMPANGA, Philippines --
There are many challenges when operating in the Asia-Pacific region. Whether it is the destructive powers of nature or the effects of human conflict, thankfully there are forces in the region equipped to help stop the chaos.
The Philippine Air Force joined alongside U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific to conduct an embassy reinforcement and non-combatant evacuation operation during Amphibious Landing Exercise 15, Oct. 2, 2014.
“This exercise is run by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and it tests the MEU on a host of [tasks] the MEU is required to do [in order] to conduct contingency operations,” said Lt. Colonel Tom Chalkley, the executive officer for the 31st MEU. “This exercise is a non-combatant evacuation operation in conjunction with an embassy reinforcement. In this scenario, the MEU has been called to reinforce a consulate and conduct a relief in place with the (FASTPAC) Marines.”
First to fight
FASTPAC Marines, specialized in close quarter tactics and equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, were called to rapidly secure a mock embassy on Clark Air Base, Philippines. They began their mission from Yokosuka, Japan, were they are forward deployed to respond to contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
“What we do is basically turn this place into a [secure environment],” said Lance Cpl. Jorge Montforte, a designated rifleman with FASTPAC. “We lock it down, see where everything is, and stand post.”
Assessing the situation
After FASTPAC Marines secured the embassy, the Forward Command Element of the 31st MEU arrived to assess the conditions and coordinate a relief and place, according to Chalkley, the FCE officer in charge.
“What you see is Marine forces flowing ashore, taking over security of the compound and preparing American citizens for evacuation,” said Chalkley. “They will evacuate citizens via MEU assets to a safe haven, whether it’s an airport or back to amphibious shipping.”
Through the exercise, a simulated mob of rioters and protestors harassed the personnel at the embassy by throwing objects, attempting to penetrate the security and overrun the facility.
The Philippine Air Force sent in their forces to help control the ongoing disorder.
“We were here to make sure the aggressors don’t get in and to let them know this is a restricted area,” said Ednalyn Tenori, an airman in the Philippine Air Force. “The teamwork with the Marines was good.”
The Philippine forces used riot control methods to keep the mob at bay and keep embassy personnel safe until more help arrived.
Marines with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, embarked aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), were flown via MV-22B Ospreys to reinforce the embassy and begin evacuation procedures.
It is these unique opportunities - working with different forces in unfamiliar environments such as in the ongoing exercises in the Philippines - that enhance the 31st MEU’s ability to rapidly respond to any contingency, said Chalkley.
“It’s something new and there is always a surprise around the corner,” said Chalkley. “It’s not like going out to your backyard training area.”
PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S Marine and Navy Forces focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations across a range of military operations including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.