"Shouldering the Load Together"
The 23rd edition of exercise Balikatan opened on 19 February 2007 in a ceremony commemorating 50 years of the US and the Republic of the Philippines working shoulder to shoulder. According to Major General Stephen D Tom, US co-exercise director, there was to be 13 Medical Capabilities and 5 Engineering Capabilities as part of the exercise. The projects totaled $300,000. There were approximately 390 US service members and 1,200 Philippine service members participating in 2007's exercise.
One project that US and Filipino soldiers on Jolo Island took on was the paving of a 4-kilometer road that will allow local residents to travel easily from their village to the island's largest municipality year round.
Aside from the road improvement project, the 2 militaries worked with local governments and partners to hold 12 free medical clinics in Mindanao that treated more than 6,000 residents; provided free dental care and veterinary care; built and renovated schools, a day care center, and a health clinic; and repaired a boat ramp and pier.
Another facet of Balikatan was a Staff Exercise. In this portion, the US and the Republic of the Philippines created a scenario for crisis action planning. The event's center was maritime operations. The goal of the STAFFEX was to combine the knowledge of the 2 countries and create doctrine for maritime protection, which would help the 2 countries learn to work together in addressing real-world challenges such as terrorist transit routes, piracy, drug smuggling, and critical infrastructure protection.
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