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Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit landed ashore in the Northern Philippines recently as part of an amphibious-readiness exercise with their Philippine counterparts.

Three infantry companies from Okinawa’s 31st MEU, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment kicked off the exercise Sept. 15 at the Philippine Marine Corps Base in Ternate. The one-week training stint built ties and increased the countries’ ability to work together, according to a Marine Corps news release.

The U.S. Marines hit the beach via landing craft and helicopters from the USS Essex, USS Fort McHenry and USS Harper’s Ferry, which arrived in Subic Bay the day before the exercise began.

“An exercise like this greatly improves our ability to stand next to the Philippine marine corps and feel confident in each other’s capabilities,” said Capt. Jackie Schiller, the MEU combat element’s assistant operations officer.

U.S. forces also trained with the Philippine navy and army.

“Our ability to project forces rapidly, in particular the quick reaction force, is something the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] was interested in, and this training helped establish a foundation to continue small-unit operations,” said Lt. Col. Ronald A. Gridley, the 31st MEU operations officer.

“Because they have more real-world experience than we can even imagine, we learned a lot from them.”

The training was in two locations in the Luzon region: the Ternate installation and the Philippine Army Base at Magsaysay. Throughout the exercise, the forces conducted live-fire and maneuver exercises, demolition training, close-quarters combat, martial-arts training and mechanized training with their amphibious-assault vehicles.

One of the most important aspects of the training involved refueling and resupplying forward-deployed ground and aviation forces — which strike from the sea and have the potential to conduct long-range missions, Marine officials said.

“The whole point is to make sure troops and aircrew make it all the way to the battlefield,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick J. Najmulski, aviation-ordnance chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265.

“When I was in Iraq for my last assignment, like a lot of others here, we had to conduct FARPs [Forward Ammunition and Refueling Points] all the way to Baghdad … sometimes 400 miles out. I think during this last exercise, we proved that we can do it without a hitch.”

The forces also teamed up with local carpenters and engineers on Luzon for community-relations projects.


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