By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karen Blankenship, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs
PHIBLEX is an annual bilateral exercise held in conjunction with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and is designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and develop professional and personal relationships between U.S. and Philippine forces.
"Our historical relationship with the Republic of the Philippines is important," said Lt. Col. Troy Roesti, executive officer of the 31st MEU. "The resounding success of PHIBLEX 13 served to strengthen and reinforce the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries."
PHIBLEX lasted 10 days and was conducted at sea and ashore in the Republic of the Philippines. The bilateral training covered many different aspects of military operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and combined arms live-fire exercises.
"The value of this partnered training is immeasurable," said Roesti. "The resounding success, camaraderie and esprit de corps experienced during PHIBLEX 13 will serve as a benchmark for future exercises and training opportunities with our friends in the Philippines."
Marines and Sailors from the 31st MEU also visited five schools in Margulo, Magsaysay and Puerta Princesa. During these visits service members helped clean the schools by removing weeds and brush and by picking up trash. They also had the chance to interact with the children at the schools by playing games and talking with them.
"Getting to interact with the Filipino children goes beyond just playing games with them," said Lance Cpl. Cameron Wright, a heavy equipment operator with the 31st MEU. "They'll remember our visits and the various medical and engineering projects we've done with them, which all goes toward fostering a stronger relationship that goes beyond military-to-military training. These are lifelong bonds for the future."
Exercises like PHIBLEX help strengthen the ties between the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Pacific region.
"The partnered training during this exercise allowed U.S. Marines and Sailors, alongside Republic of the Philippine marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen, to teach and learn from each other, practice newly acquired skills and then demonstrate their unique capabilities," said Roesti. "The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU leave PHIBLEX 13 better trained and with memories that will not be forgotten."
The Bonhomme Richard ARG, commanded by Capt. Cathal S. O'Connor, is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.