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Exercise Balikatan '08 tests ability to deliver

by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Air Force News Agency

3/4/2008 - CLARK FIELD, Philippines (AFPN) -- Moving large amounts of equipment, personnel or humanitarian relief supplies can be a daunting task. But it's a task tactical and strategic airlifters like the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III are made for. That's why they were instrumental in Exercise Balikatan '08 held here.

The joint and bilateral exercise increases both the American and Filipino armed forces' ability to respond quickly and work effectively together to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that threaten public safety and health.

The ability to deliver materiel and personnel to military operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief or contingency operations is critical to be successful, officials said.

"Our role for the exercise is key in that in any military operation that we have you're always going to need airlift, whether it's tactical airlift or strategic airlift," said Lt. Col. Mark Polomsky, the 36th Airlift Squadron commander.

The term Balikatan is a Tagalog word, which means 'shouldering the load together,' and characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise.

Along that same line, the first C-17 involvement with the exercise comes with a mix of active duty and Air National Guard members.

"We are a team. The Hawaii Air National Guard 204th Airlift Squadron and the 535th Airlift Squadron, as well as our maintenance, is made up of Guard and active duty," said Capt. Al Basioa, C-17 planner for the exercise.

"Everything is a team effort and we work very well together. It is indistinguishable between us in our mission," he said.

Working hand in hand with the Filipinos, the two C-130 aircraft from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and the C-17 from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, showed their capabilities via airlift.

"It's really good training working with our sister services and working with another countries' military," Colonel Polomsky said.

The exercise allows the Filipino government to understand the scope of America's airlift capabilities, Captain Basioa said. That way, if they need assistance in humanitarian or disaster relief efforts in the future, they'll know what to expect.

"Airlift is very important, for example when the floods and mudslides happened in 2006 the C-130s and the C-17 were both there to provide assistance," Captain Basioa said.

The relationship between the government of the Philippines and the United States is the longest bilateral partnership in U.S. history.

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