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(from left to right) U.S. Marines Col. Michael P. Wylie, operations chief, Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group Philippines, Col. John Armellino Jr, chief of staff of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and Col. Romin Dasmalchi, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, discuss their time in the Philippines at the closing ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 15, Oct. 10, 2014. Philippine and U.S. service members attended the closing ceremony of PHIBLEX to celebrate the two-week long exercise that allows Philippine and U.S. armed forces to work cooperatively in range of military operations such as complex amphibious operations and disaster relief missions. 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.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Robert Williams Jr.

Top Philippine and U.S. Military officials celebrate together during PHIBLEX 15 closing ceremony

10 Oct 2014 | Lance Cpl. Robert Williams Jr.

Philippine and U.S. service members attended the closing ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 here, Oct. 10, 2014.

PHIBLEX is a two-week long bilateral exercise that allows Philippine and U.S. armed forces to work cooperatively in range of military operations such as complex amphibious operations and disaster relief missions.

“PHIBLEX 15 has accomplished more than what is expected,” said Philippine Marine Maj. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps. “The training objectives were all met and our units are now more capable to respond to different situations where our services are needed most.”

During PHIBEX 15, the Philippine and U.S. service members completed a combined amphibious assault exercise, a combined arms live-fire exercise and a multitude of other events that integrated military teamwork.

“It was an absolute honor and privilege to serve with another professional amphibious military force. These guys were ready to train shoulder-to-shoulder,” said U.S. Marine Col. Romin Dasmalchi, the commanding officer for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “They were ready to execute all of the amphibious operations that we came down here to do. We learned a few things from them just like they learned a few things from us.”

Another goal of PHIBLEX 15 was to fortify the bond between the two countries.

“The accomplishments of our young men and women during PHIBLEX 15 showcased our enduring relationship and proved that our alliance remains a key source of security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, “ said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. “We must be ready and we must be relevant. We must provide our nations with Navies and Marine Corps that are viewed as nothing less than a force -of-choice where it matters, when it matters.”

The timing of the exercise plays a key role as well.

“You’ll notice that PHIBLEX is in the months of September and October, that is typhoon season for the Philippines,” said Philippine Marine Corps Col. Jimmy Larida, chief of staff for education and training. “For typhoon season the forward posturing of US forces in our country would make it easier to act in case of real world humanitarian assistance/disaster relief once the Philippine government requests U.S. assistance.”

An average of 20 typhoons hit in the Philippines each year.

“We have broadened our capabilities for humanitarian assistance and disaster response by allowing our militaries to respond more rapidly during emergency and calamites like the recent typhoon Yolanda late last year,” said Tanalgo, during his speech at the closing ceremony.

Beyond amphibious operations and disaster training scenarios, the Philippines and U.S. service members worked on  several civic projects during the exercise.

“The humanitarian and civic assistance projects in Zambales and Palawan had a positive impact on thousands of people,” said Wetherald. “School buildings were renovated, over 4,000 patients seen by our combined medical staff and most importantly our militaries were able to exchange knowledge and share best practices that allow us to continue to grow and improve together.”

Both parties mutually agree that training in the Philippines enhances their military capabilities.

“[We learned] a lot of the small-unit tactics based on their environment,” said Dasmalchi. “They were able to impart some wisdom on our Marines about jungle warfare because (the Philippines) has that type of environment.”

With more experience under their belts, the U.S. Marines have grown due to being in the different training areas according to Dasmalchi.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Dasmalchi. “It was an absolute positive experience.”

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit