SUBIC BAY, Republic of the
Philippines – Ships from Amphibious Squadron Eleven (PHIBRON-11)
arrived in the Republic of the Philippines to take part in Exercise
Balikatan 2009 (BK09).
The forward-deployed amphibious assault USS Essex (LHD 2) and
amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), along with the
embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), will participate in
bilateral training with elements from the Armed Forces of the
“We are excited to be working alongside our Filipino counterparts
once again,” said Capt. Donald Schmieley, commodore for PHIBRON-11.
“We have a very strong relationship with the Government of the
Republic of the Philippines, its armed forces and its citizens.
Exercises like Balikatan only serve to further strengthen those
During BK09, Philippine and U.S. members of the armed forces will
conduct humanitarian assistance projects in Bicol, central and
southern Luzon and Zamboanga. They will offer free medical, dental
and veterinary care, and construct and repair schools and other
community infrastructures in communities most in need of assistance.
“These humanitarian assistance and training activities enable our
[service members] to get to know each other, train together, and
provide assistance in communities where the need is greatest,” said
U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney. “True to the meaning of the word ‘Balikatan,’
this activity entails Philippine and U.S. forces shouldering the
load together to help the greatest possible number of people in
In Tagalog, the Philippine native language, the term “Balikatan”
means “shoulder to shoulder” and characterizes the philosophy and
intent of the exercise.
In addition to the humanitarian and civic projects, U.S. and
Philippine forces will also work cooperatively during a
scenario-based staff exercise and field-training exercises in Luzon.
This bilateral training is vital to maintaining the readiness
capabilities for both U.S. and Philippine armed forces, who share a
57-year mutual defense treaty.
PHIBRON-11 embarked 16 members of the AFP in the days leading up to
the exercise to participate in the planning process for the
scenario-based ground exercise.
“One of the major training objectives during Balikatan is to
increase the interoperability between U.S. and Philippine forces,”
said Marine Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, operations officer for the
31st MEU. “During the past two exercises the MEU has been involved
with, we have coordinated with the AFP to have planners transit with
us from Okinawa to the Philippines. This provides us a unique
opportunity to plan amphibious operations and gain a better
understanding of U.S. and Philippine Navy and Marine Corps
capabilities and limitations.”
Exercise Balikatan is an annual combined, joint-bilateral exercise
involving U.S. Military and AFP personnel as well as subject-matter
experts from Philippine Civil Defense Agencies. BK09 is the 25th in
the series of these exercises, directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff
and requested by the GRP.
PHIBRON-11 consists of the flagship USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Denver (LPD
9), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), and is the
U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious squadron.