Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Air Force 18th Civil Engineer Group, 18th Wing, work together on construction efforts ahead of Balikatan 22 at Masi Elementary School, Rizal, Cagayan.

Approximately 8,900 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military are teaming up for Balikatan 2022, the largest-ever iteration of the Philippine-led annual exercise taking place across Luzon, from March 28 to April 8.

The 3,800 AFP members and 5,100 U.S. military personnel will train shoulder-to-shoulder focusing on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“Balikatan is a critical opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Philippine allies toward a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,’ as our Indo-Pacific Strategy calls for. The U.S. is proud to continue our participation in this long-standing exercise,” said U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava.

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U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 (VMM-363), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, arrive at Subic Bay International Airport ahead of Balikatan 22 in the Philippines. 

“During Balikatan, the U.S. military and AFP will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, 3rd Marine Division Commanding General.

“The friendship and trust between our forces will enable us to accomplish any mission across the spectrum of military operations,” he added.

The exercise also includes a command post exercise that tests the AFP and U.S. forces’ ability to plan, command, and communicate with each other in a simulated environment. This training will bolster the collective security and defensive capabilities of the alliance.

“Exercise Balikatan is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and United States’ security relationship,” said Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, AFP Exercise Director for Balikatan 22. “The experience gained in the exercise complements our security cooperation endeavors and will help to enhance existing mutual security efforts.”

The AFP and U.S. military will also conduct multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects during this year’s Balikatan, including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques.

These construction projects, health engagements and community relations events improve local infrastructure, facilitate the exchange of lifesaving medical skills, and strengthen ties between Philippine communities and Philippine and American military forces.

COVID-19 mitigation remains a priority for both nations. U.S. forces will comply with all Philippine government COVID-19 travel regulations and will maintain social distancing and wear face masks during exercises as operationally feasible.

“Balikatan” is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and represents the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.

“Balikatan 22 coincides with the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Philippine security cooperation and a shared commitment to promoting peace,” said Bargeron. “Our alliance remains a key source of strength and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Exercises like Balikatan strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region. The United States is proud to participate in this Philippine-led exercise to improve both nations’ capabilities across a wide range of military operations.

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