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U.S., Philippines conclude Balikatan

May 3, 2012

By Courtesy

CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines (May 3, 2012) -- The Republic of the Philippines and the U.S. celebrated the successes of Exercise Balikatan 2012 during a closing ceremony here April 27.

Balikatan, meaning "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, was exactly how the two militaries conducted the 28th iteration of the multilateral event.

The combined forces worked together, shoulder-to-shoulder, to conduct more than 100 separate events across three categories: humanitarian and civic assistance, a simulated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenario, and field training.

During the ceremony, each speaker remarked on "culminating another historic event," by working together and having a mutual respect for one another deeply rooted in cooperation. The speakers indicated that these successes were born out of the longstanding relationship between the Philippines and United States.

Harry K. Thomas Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, stood at the podium and spoke of the respect he witnessed among the exercise participants. He playfully took his speech, tore it up, and tossed it away, because he said he could not say anything better than what had been said by military leadership.

U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Duane D. Thiessen, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Philippine Army Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa, AFP chief of staff, and Philippine Navy Rear Adm. Victor Emmanuel C. Martir, AFP exercise director, all spoke of the mutual respect, admiration and gratitude the participating forces have for one another.

"This exercise was an amazing success," Thiessen said. "I want to compliment the leadership, the vision of the government of the Philippines, and the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for everything they have done during this exercise. I have been very, very impressed."

Exercise Balikatan is an annual training event aimed at improving combined planning, combat readiness, humanitarian assistance operations and interoperability between the AFP and United States.

"As it has been in the past ... through the spirit and meaning of Balikatan, you have shouldered the work together," said Honorio Azcueta, Philippine undersecretary of defense. "The training program you have participated in shall improve your professional advancement."

The various activities provided the opportunity for the members of the AFP and U.S. forces to get to know each other, train together, and provide assistance to local communities. More than 6,500 Philippine and American troops participated in this year.

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