By Sgt. Matthew C. MoellerFebruary 25, 2008
CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines-Language and cultural barriers all but disappeared for paratroopers of two nations as they jumped from a low-flying U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft Friday.
Special Operations service members from all branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their U.S. military counterparts took part in the airborne operation with the goal of building friendship and trust during this year's Balikatan exercise.
Balikatan is an annual, bilateral humanitarian assistance and military exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and United States.
"Every year the Americans come here and we train together," said an AFP Air Force Special Operator before his 16th training jump with American forces. "It helps us out, and them out. We teach each other things."
The jump was unique because it was meant to be fun, but also provided valuable development.
"It gives us a chance to take a break from the other training and do something that is both fun and sustainment training," said a U.S. Army Special Forces officer.
"(It's my) first jump with (the) U.S.," said one Philippine Army Soldier.
Following a morning of safety inspections conducted at the Clark International Airport, the large group of special operators boarded two U.S. Air Force C-130s for a short ride, then a quick fall toward the drop zone several miles away.
"It went very well. The winds appeared to be high, but when we jumped they were all but gone," said an American Special Forces Soldier.
"It was good!" agreed an excited AFP service member after landing safely. "I want to go again."
For the third and final jump, Philippine and American Special Operations service members conducted a High Altitude, Low Opening, or HALO jump.
At heights of up to10,000 feet, a HALO jump is one of the most difficult and dangerous military maneuvers to accomplish, where paratroopers freefall several thousand feet before deploying their parachute.
After rigorous preparation, the small group of experienced jumpers boarded a U.S. Air Force C-17 airplane, and upon reaching 6,000 feet, jumped.
But training wasn't the day's only aim; building trust is one of the main missions of Balikatan and an integral part of this jump.
"We're more than shoulder to shoulder," said the American Special Forces officer, "we're brothers."
(Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller serves with the Combined Joint Information Bureau, Clark Field, Republic of the Philippines.)
See related article on Friday's dental and engineering civil action project at a Philippine school: Soldiers Fix Schools, Smiles in Balikatan 08.