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Show of military might closes out biggest Balikatan

GAMES OVER  No longer sporting grim and grimy faces, Philippine and US Marines, some of whom managed to smile, pose for a souvenir photo after their live fire RP-US Balikatan military exercises at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac province. The notorious Crow Valley was the gunnery range of the former US Air Base in Clark Field, then the largest outside the United States.  RAFFY LERMA

GAMES OVER No longer sporting grim and grimy faces, Philippine and US Marines, some of whom managed to smile, pose for a souvenir photo after their live fire RP-US Balikatan military exercises at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac province. The notorious Crow Valley was the gunnery range of the former US Air Base in Clark Field, then the largest outside the United States. RAFFY LERMA

CAPAS, Tarlac—The United States military on Thursday displayed its superior firepower during a combined arms live fire exercise (Calfex) at Crow Valley here that ended this year’s 10-day Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) exercises.

The US military brought its Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters, an A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter plane and howitzers during the war games that had American and Filipino soldiers fighting side by side.

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Col. Dave Womack, commander of the 2nd Strike Brigade, 25th Infantry Division of the US Army, said the Balikatan was not so much about the equipment but the Filipino and American soldiers who learned from each other.

“They were side by side today and we showcased their ability to integrate their capabilities. And I think they are impressive,” Womack said.

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Col. Lawrence Mina, Task Force Kalayaan commander of the Philippine Army, said Calfex was the application of what the soldiers learned during the field training exercise phase of Balikatan, where no live ammunition was used.

“Training needs were identified when we started the exercise. What we think were not covered by this training, we can have them in the next Balikatan exercise,” Mina said.

At least 10,000 Filipino and American soldiers took part in the exercise, the biggest Balikatan in the last 15 years.

On Thursday, 90 American troops and 160 Filipino soldiers participated in the war games that lasted almost an hour.

“Not only are we training and helping our brothers and sisters from the Philippines, we’re getting a lot of readiness out of here. We came here to increase our readiness and that’s really important to us,” Womack said.

“We have also benefited from this and so I want to make that clear because there are things that we are doing here that we just can’t do in other places so, we’re pretty thankful for this opportunity,” he said.

He said the exercise also trained them to work together during humanitarian assistance and disaster response situations.

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Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, Balikatan exercise director, said the mock battle was not directed at any country “but more to any crisis situation that both our countries might face.”

“We have made new and better initiatives and this is, by far, the biggest Balikatan in terms of manpower and equipment,” he said.–With reports from Jun Malig, Armand Galang and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

 

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TAGS: Balikatan, Calfex, Crow Valley, Dave Womack, Lawrence Mina, Military, Philippines, Tarlac, US, War Games
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