Annual Balikatan 2009 exercise begins in the Philippines
April 24, 2009
FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines - Balikatan 2009 jumped off to a running start as Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam National Guard, joined together with Republic of the Philippine soldiers from the 49th Infantry Battalion at Fort Magsaysay military reservation in Nueva Ecija, approximately four hours from the Philippine capital of Manila.
Balikatan, which translates from Tagalog into "shoulder-to-shoulder," is an annual exercise which brings together the U.S. and RP militaries to ensure their militaries' readiness and interoperability in the event of a natural disaster and to provide humanitarian relief needs.
Beginning April 14, Soldiers trained on a variety of weapons to include the M16 rifle, M24 sniper rifle, 81mm mortar and the 50-caliber machine gun. The Soldiers from the 1st Bn. 294th Inf. Regt. also gave training on the Modern Army Combatives Program, and the Combat Lifesaver Course to their Filipino counterparts.
"It's been a very aggressive training plan and our counterparts have been very receptive and are looking towards more bilateral training," said Capt. Gerard Baleto, the operations officer assigned to the 1st Bn. 294th Inf. Regt.
Training will end with a squad and platoon-level live-fire exercise incorporating their new knowledge.
"The 49th seems to be appreciative of what we're providing," said Lt. Col. George Charfauros, battalion commander, 1st Bn. 294th Inf. Regt.
It motivates the U.S. Soldiers when those they train with are receptive to the training, he added.
"It makes them feel like they're doing something worthwhile."