From DVIDS (Oct 3): 31st MEU Embassy Reinforcement at PHIBLEX 15
U.S. Marines set up non-combatant processing at a simulated embassy reinforcement during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 2, 2014. PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces to strengthen interoperability across a range of capabilities to include disaster relief and contingency operations. The Marines are with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Richard Currier)
CLARK AIR BASE, PAPANGA, Philippines – There are many challenges when operating in the Asia-Pacific region. Whether it is the destructive powers of nature or the effects of human conflict, thankfully there are forces in the region equipped to help stop the chaos.
The Philippine Air Force joined alongside U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific to conduct an embassy reinforcement and non-combatant evacuation operation during Amphibious Landing Exercise 15, Oct. 2, 2014.
“This exercise is run by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and it tests the MEU on a host of [tasks] the MEU is required to do [in order] to conduct contingency operations,” said Lt. Colonel Tom Chalkley, the executive officer for the 31st MEU. “This exercise is a non-combatant evacuation operation in conjunction with an embassy reinforcement. In this scenario, the MEU has been called to reinforce a consulate and conduct a relief in place with the (FASTPAC) Marines.”
First to fight
FASTPAC Marines, specialized in close quarter tactics and equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, were called to rapidly secure a mock embassy on Clark Air Base, Philippines. They began their mission from Yokosuka, Japan, were they are forward deployed to respond to contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
“What we do is basically turn this place into a [secure environment],” said Lance Cpl. Jorge Montforte, a designated rifleman with FASTPAC. “We lock it down, see where everything is, and stand post.”
Assessing the situation
After FASTPAC Marines secured the embassy, the Forward Command Element of the 31st MEU arrived to assess the conditions and coordinate a relief and place, according to Chalkley, the FCE officer in charge.
“What you see is Marine forces flowing ashore, taking over security of the compound and preparing American citizens for evacuation,” said Chalkley. “They will evacuate citizens via MEU assets to a safe haven, whether it’s an airport or back to amphibious shipping.”
Through the exercise, a simulated mob of rioters and protestors harassed the personnel at the embassy by throwing objects, attempting to penetrate the security and overrun the facility.
The Philippine Air Force sent in their forces to help control the ongoing disorder.
“We were here to make sure the aggressors don’t get in and to let them know this is a restricted area,” said Ednalyn Tenori, an airman in the Philippine Air Force. “The teamwork with the Marines was good.”
The Philippine forces used riot control methods to keep the mob at bay and keep embassy personnel safe until more help arrived.
Marines with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, embarked aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), were flown via MV-22B Ospreys to reinforce the embassy and begin evacuation procedures.
It is these unique opportunities - working with different forces in unfamiliar environments such as in the ongoing exercises in the Philippines - that enhance the 31st MEU’s ability to rapidly respond to any contingency, said Chalkley.
“It’s something new and there is always a surprise around the corner,” said Chalkley. “It’s not like going out to your backyard training area.”
PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S Marine and Navy Forces focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations across a range of military operations including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.
The participants gladly and intelligently expressed their thoughts and feelings regarding the upcoming Bangsamoro Government.
Ms. Babylyn Kano-Omar, Station Manager of DXGD of Tawi-Tawi, said that one way of helping the UNYPAD in disseminating and advocating the issue on Bangsamoro is through on-the-air radio program.
Ms. Omar invited program facilitators, Mr. Sulaiman Pagaruan, UNYPAD Provincial Chairman of Tawi-Tawi Chapter, Mr. Tony Said together with the Secretary-General of UNYPAD Mr. Yusoph Lumanbas and Ms. Melia Ukom, UNYPAD Project Officer for interview DXGD about their views on the on-going peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Mr. Pagaruan disclosed that more island municipalities were not yet accessed by the UNYPAD and some other peace institutions that are doing similar advocacy programs due to their geographical locations.
Mr. Lumambas, also the Head of the Grievance Committee of UNYPAD National Chapter had also facilitated a Seminar-Workshop on “Islamic Leadership, Handlings and Procedures of Meeting and Community Organizing” during his presence in the island province. There were 20 participants who participated in from the municipalities of Simunol, Sitangkay, Turtle Island and other islands organized by UNYPAD.
The participants extended their heartfelt gratitude to the leadership of UNYPAD National Chapter for reaching out to Moro and non-Moro areas especially in the far-flung communities and become aware of the current issues and avail some programs and services of the organization.