Forces find gift of giving humbling during Balikatan|
By Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young
CLARK FIELD, Philippines -- United States servicemembers joined members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines April 8 in making donations to four villages in the Tarlac region of the Philippines as a show of good will during exercise Balikatan 2011.
U.S. servicemembers with the help of their AFP counterparts identified six Barangays (villages), that were in need of some support. The U.S. forces collected donated material and with the help of the AFP passed out 39 goodwill boxes consisting of clothes, toys, bedding, towels and house wares to each of the Barangays, according to 1st Lt. Fernando Isip, of U.S. Army Pacific's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
For many of the U.S. servicemembers, it was a humbling experience to be on scene and see first hand the appreciation of the donations that they brought with them.
"It feels great to be out here with anyone that is in need," said Master Sgt. Carlos Cano III of the 8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Fort Shafter. "We tend to take some things for granted and here you realize something as small as a used toy means so much to the children."
Many of the children were happy and eager at the chance to acquire a new toy.
"A smile on a child's face is always a good thing," added Cano.
For some of the U.S. military, this was a trip home for the first time in years and was a very worthwhile event.
"This has personally been a humbling experience for me because I grew up about one hour from here," added Isip. "To be part of the U.S. forces, lead this community event and witness how we assist the Philippine government in every means whether training the Philippine Army or doing humanitarian relief is truly a great experience for me."
Philippine Army members were happy to work with the U.S. forces, but even happier to help their more remote communities.
"I'm happy to be out here to show our love and compassion for our remote Barangays in Tarlac," said Lt. Col. Cupid Ortiz of the Philippine Army. "I believe the people will appreciate the men in uniform for this effort."
U.S. servicemembers and members of the AFP have been training and working side-by-side for this exercise and have benefited from it greatly.
"This exercise has been great because both U.S. and AFP troops have been encouraged to mingle together as part of increasing our interoperability experience," added Ortiz.
Balikatan is a regularly scheduled exercise focusing on interoperability of forces and training and assistance in humanitarian and civic assistance operations.