U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit joined members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to spend the morning with Maruglo Elementary School students on Col. Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, formerly known as Crow Valley, Oct. 6, 2016.
As part of Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX), the U.S. and Philippine service members played basketball, Duck-Duck-Goose, soccer, and several other school-age activities with the students.
The visit helped solidify the bonds between the AFP and the U.S. forces and shows a mutual commitment to the community in Crow Valley, according to Master Sgt. Arsenio Cortez, a foreign area advisor with the 31st MEU. Cortez arrived in the Philippines several weeks before the beginning of PHIBLEX 33 to build rapport with the locals in Crow Valley.
“During our visit to Crow Valley, we visited local villages to let them know about the joint training during PHIBLEX, and we urged the residents to be cautious whenever we, both the U.S. and Philippines armed forces, are training,” said Cortez, who was also born in the Philippines.
“We understand our training can be a disruption to their daily lives, so we built in times when local villagers can pass through the valley to minimize the impact on their livelihoods,” said Cortez. “Many of these school children at Maruglo are indigenous to Crow Valley, and we wanted to ensure they know we cooperate with the Philippine Marines and Philippine Air Force whenever we train here.”
Maruglo Elementary School is made up of nearly 350 children, from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. The Marines, Sailors and AFP members spent several hours just having fun, and the experience was a rewarding one, according to Lance Cpl. David A. Roa, an infantry Marine with Company E, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 31st MEU.
“We are always glad to get out into the community during training with our partner militaries,” said Roa. “Coming out here with the Philippine Marines and Air Force members helps us better connect with the citizens of Crow Valley.”
The visit also helped the U.S. Marines and Sailors connect with their counterparts in the AFP, according to Roa.
“We always train with the Philippine Marines and other services, usually focusing on tactics and combat skills. Out here with the kids, we get to see the other nations’ service members in a different light,” Roa said.