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Arrowhead Soldiers join forces in live-fire exercise

3rd Bde., 2nd inf. Div. Public Affairs

Published: 03:58PM May 22nd, 2014

In front of a multitude of distinguished visitors, a dozen soldiers from the Philippine Army’s Special Operations Force leaped from a C-130 troop transport aircraft during a High Altitude Low Opening jump onto their objective far below.

After the Philippine SOF consolidated and secured the objective, helicopter gunships from the Philippine Navy swooped in and its 30 mm chain guns delivered suppressive fire.

On a May 15 morning that topped 100 degrees, approximately 200 Philippine soldiers and marines from the Armed Forces of the Philippines took part in Balikatan 2014, a joint live fire exercise in Crow Valley Range Complex, which was part of a larger cross-training and interoperability field training exercise that marked the third and final phase of Balikatan 2014. This year is the 30th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise, which involved U.S. military, AFP personnel and subject matter experts from Philippine Civil Defense agencies.

The LFX showcased the Philippine, American and Australian armed forces operating in concert to achieve a common objective under the command and control element of Joint Task Force–National Capital Region. During Balikatan, they were partnered with Soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“This Joint Task Force HQ performed command and control duties for today’s combined arms live fire exercise and successfully ensured the synchronized employment of air and land elements to achieve their objective,” said Lt. Col. Jarett Broemmel, OIC of the Arrowhead Brigade’s Balikatan 2014 team and commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Although operating in stifling heat, the entire organization remained motivated and delivered successful results.”

In the scenario, the Philippine AFP simultaneously stormed its objectives by air and land, utilizing rotary wing support, indirect fire, close air support and ground forces.

Helicopter gunships initially dispatched their target, while artillerymen sent indirect fire down on the second objective a short time later, and close air support from both Philippine and U.S. Air Forces followed.

The joint fire training exercise culminated in a ground assault by 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team, while Filipino infantrymen from B Company, 20th Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, swooped in on MV-22 Ospreys, securing the second and final objective.

“The purpose of this exercise was to showcase the capabilities and the interoperability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with not only their own services but also with U.S. and Australian military forces,” said Maj. John Hawbaker, 2-3 Inf. executive officer.

Arrowhead Brigade leaders coordinated rehearsals and provided subject matter expertise to the JTF-NCR, which directed forces during the event.

The rehearsals were important for U.S. and Philippine forces to synchronize efforts and gain visual impressions before conducting the live-fire exercise later in the week, Broemmel said.

“The number of participants is impressive and is representative of the partnership of the annual Balikatan exercise,” he said.

The collective effort of the Philippine Armed Forces and their U.S. military counterparts resulted in a successful exercise that demonstrated the partnership between two longtime allies. The motivation and fitness of the soldiers was apparent as they exited aircraft on the landing zone and executed final maneuvers during the combined arms live fire.

The leaders of the Philippine army and Marine forces gave the exercise enthusiastic approval.

“As a company commander, I was blessed that I took part in this exercise and I have experienced leading troops in this kind of exercise,” said 1st Lt. Robbi Cruz, Philippine army company commander, B Co., 20th Inf., 8th Inf. Div. “I think this alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines is very important to us because ... it gives us security.”