Field training exercise ends, lifelong friendships remain|
By Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Holly
The field training exercise portion of Exercise Balikatan 2012 concluded, April 25, after nine days of continuous combined bilateral training.
"(Philippine and U.S. forces) have had a number of 'firsts' during this exercise, which not only enhanced our training, but has enabled our enduring partnership," said U.S. Army Col. Jack K. Pritchard, commanding officer of the 196th Infantry Brigade. "During our force-on-force exercise, we integrated the Initial-Homestation Training Instrumentaion System, which provided valuable feedback to the units and enabled a virtual (unmanned aerial vehicle) feed to the battalion operations centers.
"We had bilateral observer control teams who worked together, side-by-side to provide quality (after action reports)…," Prichard continued. "…and lessons learned at the company and battalion level."
Philippine Army Col. George Patrick V. Avila, Combined Army Forces commander, Armed Forces of the Philippines, reaffirmed Prichard's sentiment over the bilateral training and enduring friendships.
"We believe that training objectives have been met, and I'm sure we benefitted from improving our tactical skills and capabilities," said Avila, "but what is most important is the professionalism and bond of comradeship we have developed over the nine days."
The FTX involved combined bilateral training exercises geared toward increasing military-to-military relations and reinforcing the two nation's longstanding friendship. The training also included humanitarian and disaster relief recovery oper¬ations, combat lifesaving, mortar firing and explosive ordnance disposal along with conducting several civic action projects.
While participants focused largely on enhancing their military cohesion and contingency planning for real-world operations, they also partnered together to conduct humanitarian civic assistance projects in the surrounding area in the form of an adolescent health symposium and an improvement project at Callos Elementay School in Penaranda, Nueva Ecija.
"We are not alone who felt the spirit of Balikatan," said Avila. "We have brought the spirit to the local communities and schools."
Although the exercise is coming to an end, the two nations can look to the near future to see the partnership continuing its growth.
"I would like to consider this a new beginning--a new era in Balikatan--with reinforced bonds, and the highest quality and most professional training we can provide," Pritchard said. "I, for one, will remember this experience for the rest of my life and will regard this as one of (Philippines and U.S.') finest moments."
Balikatan provides the platform for each respective military to maintain a high level of multinational cooperation, while illustrating the Republic of the Philippines and United States' commitment to promoting regional stability through sharing and cooperation in reaching those common goals.