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MANILA, Philippines — U.S. and Philippine military medical personnel are helping young men in the Philippines with a rite of passage: circumcision.

The troops are performing the procedure as part of their work in Balikatan — an annual bilateral training exercise that runs through Thursday.

During a Medical Civil Action Project on Friday, 13-year-old Joel Bangate underwent the procedure, according to a U.S. military news release.

According to the release, Philippine boys are usually between 10 and 13 years old when they decide to have the circumcision. When Joel learned that the procedure would be offered thanks to the Balikatan troops, the teen decided to take that option.

Professional circumcisions are available at medical facilities in the area, but in most impoverished areas, a village elder usually performs the procedure with a razor blade and without any stitches, according to the release. Boys traditionally sit in a cold bath for two hours to numb themselves while chewing guava leaves for minimal anesthetic. The boys spit the leaves onto the open wound, hoping to heal themselves, according to the release.

Philippine army Capt. William Recuenco — a surgeon — said the end result of the traditional procedure is often an infection.

During the MEDCAP, doctors used sterile instruments and an effective anesthetic and provided antibiotics.

"I have a lot to be thankful for," Joel said after his procedure, according to the release.

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