USS BOXER AT SEA -- The “Fighting 13th” wrapped up its participation in the bilateral training exercise known as Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014 (PHIBLEX 14) Sept. 22.
PHIBLEX 14 is designed to improve Philippine-U.S. interoperability, increase readiness, and enhance the ability to respond to natural disasters or other regional contingencies.
Leading up to PHIBLEX, weather predictions were poor, as a raging river along with heavy rain, flooding and strong winds at one location jeopardized the participation of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in certain parts of the training.
But Marines do as Marines do, and the common saying, “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training,” was to be put to the test.
The 13th MEU’s weeklong involvement in the exercise included training with the Philippine Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. It was the first training for the Marines and sailors of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group involving an international military on its scheduled deployment, Western Pacific 13.2.
The exercise initially was only scheduled to involve Marines and sailors from the USS New Orleans, one of three ships in the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group. However as time grew near, the USS Boxer entered the mix, affording more Marines and sailors some valuable sustainment training with the Philippine military.
Training was split between four areas – Clark Air Field in Pampanga; Marine Barracks Gregario Lim in Cavite; Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in Zambales; and Crow Valley in Tarlac – giving the Marines and sailors of the MEU a wide variety of terrain on which to train.
Bilateral training showcased Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and Philippine forces conducting vehicle maneuver tactics, live-fire training, and artillery firing, as well as small boat tactics, jungle survival training, knife fighting skills, Marine Corps martial arts program, improvised explosive device sweeps and patrolling tactics.
The 13th MEU’s aviation combat element and logistics combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 13 performed sustainment training during PHIBLEX. The units showcased their talents, providing close air, logistic and medical support to the Marines training with their Philippine partners.
The final event of PHIBLEX for the 13th MEU at Crow Valley was the combined arms live-fire exercise (CALFEX) and saw the Philippine military branches again working side by side with U.S. Marines and sailors. CALFEX lasted approximately two hours and culminated the training and rehearsal drills that had been taking place over the previous days.
“These exercises are vitally important for the interoperability of our two nations and to keep abreast of our warfighting,” said Maj. Artemio Raymundo, junior officer in charge, Marine Combined Armed Forces, Crow Valley, Philippine Marine Ready Force. “The basis is our communication and to be able to communicate technically according to our professions. We must speak the same language.”
With another successful training evolution complete, the U.S. and Philippine forces came together on the final night in Crow Valley and co-hosted a night of food, beverages and knowledge sharing.
An impromptu formation preceded the night’s festivities where Lt. Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer, BLT 1st Bn., 4th Marines, 13th MEU, presented plaques to senior leaders for the Philippine military in front of all the troops.
“We share a fighting spirit with the Philippine Marines, and we are better men and warriors because of this training,” said Bronzi. “You gentlemen always inspire me.”
After Raymundo received his plaque from Bronzi, he raised it above his head and offered words of thanks.
“I would like to thank you all for the wonderful training,” concluded Raymundo.
A Marine from the crowd offered up a “Give him one!” to a chorus of “Oorah!”
In its 30th iteration, PHIBLEX strengthens Philippines and U.S. bilateral ties and demonstrates the two nations' commitment to mutual security.