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CROW VALLEY CORRIDOR, Philippines — U.S. Marines and their Philippine counterparts rocked the Crow Valley Corridor on Saturday during a combined arms live-fire exercise meant to showcase their capability to work together.

Under the watchful eye of nearly 50 dignitaries — including Edilberto Adan, Philippines’ undersecretary of the Visiting Forces Agreement — the Marines moved through the valley, taking out targets using helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles and light-armored vehicles. Col. Paul Damren, the commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, explained the goals to the VIP visitors prior to the training.

Because the 31st MEU is sea-based aboard the Essex Amphibious Readiness Group, the Marines can quickly hit the shore and set up command and control capabilities, he said.

During the Balikatan exercises, he said, one challenge is having the forces spread out over several locations, including some troops 300 miles south of Crow Valley.

But the ability to adjust is one of the MEU’s strengths, he said.

As the VIPs donned their body armor and helmets, Philippine and U.S. troops amassed outside the checkpoint, grabbing snacks, water and smokes before the exercises kicked off.

About two-thirds of the way through the valley, amid a heavy, white smokescreen, the troops bolted from the back of their AAVs to pour fire into a row of targets along the treeline.

Squad leaders shouted instructions as the troops continued to advance, leaving behind a trail of spent brass shell casings.

After taking the objective, the sweat-soaked and winded troops had to clear their weapons before piling back into the AAVs for the last push. As they slowly advanced, the heavy black clouds that had rolled over the range finally unleashed, cutting visibility and soaking participants.

Nearly 5,000 U.S. troops, mainly from Okinawa and mainland Japan, are in the Philippines for the exercise, which ends Thursday.

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