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Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines
[OEF-PI]

The Philippines is a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, formally entitled Operation Freedom Eagle. Finally in December 2001, the mission name was changed to Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines and was classified as part of the war on terror.

In January 2002, members of Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC), headed by Brig. Gen. Donny Wurster, deployed as Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510) to support Operation ENDURING FREEDOM - Philippines.

More than 1,200 members of SOCPAC and its components joined their counterparts from the Southern Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), then commanded by Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu. The mission was to advise and assist the AFP to help combat terrorism in the country. Much of the mission took place on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines. This deployment of forces was conducted under a Exercise Balikatan 02-1, which is not to be confused with a much larger exercise named Balikatan 02-2 which took place in April 2002 and was purely a training exercise.

Basilan was a stronghold of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. This group had terrorized the citizens of this beautiful island and wreaked havoc with its economy.

By the end of the mission, the two forces had built 81 kilometers of road, improved an airfield and port facility, and dug fresh water wells.

US operations in the Philippines are particularly hard to track as political realities make it difficult for the United States to publicly identify counter-terrorism operations and thus current operations are generally identified or associated with other training exercises or with humanitarian operations such as Operation Smiles. Though the United States has had a consistent force presence in the Philippines since OEF-PI began and Balikatan 02-1 formally ended, there has been little discussion of that presence.

On February 21, 2003 the Department of Defense announced that the US and Philippine forces would conduct combined operations against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Southern Philippines. About 350 U.S. special operations personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force will work with Philippine soldiers in the Sulu Archipelago. Another 750 Americans will provide logistics support from the headquarters in Zamboanga on Mindanao Island.

In addition, elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa, Japan, and the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group will provide additional support if needed. The forces afloat bring quick reaction teams, command and control assets, aviation support and medical support to the effort.



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