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NEWS | April 6, 2016

Balikatan Exercise Strengthens U.S.-Philippine Relationship

By Terri Moon Cronk

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2016 — U.S. and Philippines’ armed forces began their 32nd iteration of Exercise Balikatan yesterday in the Philippines, Defense Press Operations Director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters here today.

This year’s annual exercise comprises about 5,000 U.S. service members and 3,500 members of the Philippines’ armed forces, in addition to nearly 80 Australian Defense Force personnel and observers from 12 other nations, he said.

“It is the premier bilateral training exercise between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines,” Davis said, adding that the major U.S. military participating units include the 3rd Marine Division, elements of the 3rd Marine Logistics Group and the 1st Marine Air Wing, the Army’s 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

“The exercise is designed to increase interoperability through combined military operations and strengthen the long-standing relationship between the United States and the Philippines,” Davis said.

It focuses on three simultaneous events through a single scenario across the Philippine islands of Luzon, Palawan and Panay, he added.

This year’s Exercise Balikatan -- a Filipino word for “shoulder-to-shoulder” -- will focus on disaster relief, crisis response training, and humanitarian civic action projects, including dental and veterinary services and engineering civic access.