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Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief Exercise in the Philippines

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Lewis | | May 15, 2017

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Santa Rosa -- Balikatan is under way with service members from the Hawaii National Guard Task Force’s search and rescue team working alongside the 505th Philippine Air Force Search and Rescue Group to enhance disaster preparedness May 13, 2017.

This is the seventh year the Hawaii National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives, Enhanced Response Force Package team has come to the Philippines to participate in Balikatan, which is an annual U.S.-Philippine bilateral military exercise focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, and other combined military operations.

The U.S. and Philippines have a shared history and have come to work alongside each other in times of crisis. Therefore, the training during Balikatan enhances both sides when it comes to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

This year, members of the Hawaii National Guard’s CERF-P and the 505th Search and Rescue Group practiced life-saving techniques including rope rescue, shoring of walls and structures, patient extractions, breaching and lifting of concrete, patient packaging, and decontamination principles at the Philippine Search and Rescue training site at Fort Magsaysay in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija.

“The members from the 505th came here this year, like always, very open-minded and ready to learn,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jovyryan Bal, the lead noncommissioned officer of the Hawaii National Guard Task Force. “The best thing here is that they are applying previous years’ learning so that we can build upon that and advance further on to additional techniques.”

Members of the Philippine Air Force continue to hone skills they have experienced from super typhoon Haiyan Yolanda in 2013, which brought heavy rainfall to the central Philippines, resulting in landslides, flooding, and devastating damage to Philippine communities. Both Philippine and U.S. service members are preparing to train the same way they will respond when the next natural disaster occurs.

The Hawaiian National Guard plans to continue training throughout the Philippines as they head to Gamu to train with members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Dela Cruz.