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PH, US conclude 'Balikatan' live fire drill

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) concluded on Thursday, March 31, the "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) live fire drill spearheaded by the Philippine Army (PA) and US Army Pacific (jointly called the Combined Army Forces) at the Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Barangay Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.

The said exercise was participated in by 500 Filipino and American soldiers. It is geared at enhancing the PA's land maneuver capabilities and strengthening interoperability of both armies.

Among the units and assets utilized were the PA's 1st Brigade Combat Team's armored personnel carriers equipped with remote control weapons systems, and 105mm howitzers; and the Philippine Air Force Super's newly acquired Embraer A-29B "Super Tucano" strike aircraft.

The US Armed Forces, on the other hand, deployed infantry brigade combat teams, field artillery battalion with howitzers and mortars, an engineering battalion, and the US Army's high-mobility artillery rocket system.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Andres Centino said the combined arms live-fire exercises (Calfex) will greatly improve the interoperability of Filipino and American forces.

"We conducted the Calfex to improve our interoperability during combined and joint operations. This is one way of ensuring that we can operate jointly with our allies. This also serves as an opportunity for us as we are procuring new equipment; we are able to test our new weapons and armaments," Centino said in a statement.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jerry Baclor said Centino witnessed the event at the Durungawan View Deck in Cerab. He was joined by Northern Luzon Command head Lt. Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr. and Philippine exercise director Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan.

Also in attendance were US Army Col. Joshua Bookout, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander and 25th Infantry Division deputy commander for operations Col. Jeffrey Vanantwerp.

Baclor said the Calfex is among the activities under the Balikatan Joint Interoperability Exercise aimed at enhancing joint and combined interoperability and partner-capacity during a crisis.

The Calfex was among the highlights of this year's Balikatan exercises which opened on March 28 and will conclude on April 8.

Dubbed as the largest-ever iteration of Balikatan, around 8,900 Filipino and American servicemen are taking part in the 12-day training exercises geared at strengthening interoperability and improving both militaries' readiness to respond to various security threats and crises.

The Manila Times


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