Balikatan 11 Opening Ceremony|
By Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young
CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines -- Servicemembers from the Republic of the Philippines and the U.S. military participated in the Exercise Balikatan 2011 opening ceremony April 5 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines.
This is the 27th exercise in the Balikatan series and serves as an opportunity for bilateral training that is vital to maintaining readiness capabilities for both the U.S. and the Philippine armed forces.
"The Balikatan Exercise helps maintain the readiness and interoperability of the United States military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines," said Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, the U.S. Balikatan 2011 director. "These formations will have Filipino and American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines standing together at Balikatan."
The exercise usually has more than 6,000 U.S. participants, but because of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, the United States had to pull back some of it's participation in this year's Balikatan.
"We are engaged in Japan in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, but due to our flexibility, capability and commitment, we are able to be here to conduct the Balikatan exercise," added Weircinski. "This combined training will enable service members from our two nations to develop mutual respect and trust while enhancing mission capabilities."
The U.S. armed forces are able to participate in some facet of the exercise even after sending support for relief efforts to Japan.
"If a multiple disaster was to happen in two different places, both armed forces would be able to react and still continue with other operations we have planned together," said Rear Admiral Victor Emmanuel Martir, the Philippine Balikatan 2011 director. "This is an example of why we conduct exercises like this one."
Balikatan will be held through April 15 in various places in the Philippines. Events included in the exercise will consist of cross training in interoperability, field exercises, explosive ordnance disposal, a command post exercise and multiple medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civil action projects.