The famous entrepreneur Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
During the engineering civic assistance project in Cagayan Valley, Philippines, U.S. and Philippine service members have done exactly that — come together, kept together, and worked together with a focus on success.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, recently deployed in support of Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX). PHIBLEX is an annual Philippine-U.S. military bilateral exercise that is a signature element of their alliance focused on a variety of missions including humanitarian assistance and amphibious capabilities demonstration.
The partnered nations are currently working side by side for 10 to 12 hours per day to renovate the San Vicente Elementary School and the Palawig Elementary School, which have extensive damage caused by weather and erosion over the years.
“The buildings were almost completely destroyed due to the typhoons and heavy weather that come through the Philippines on a yearly basis,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Justin Kabilian, the civil affairs officer for Bravo Co., 9th ESB. “The students could not sit in the class rooms because of the damaged infrastructure and some of the classes had to be held outside.”
The service members are not only renovating the schools, but are also working on military cohesion in the event that they would have to work together because of a natural disaster.
“This is my first time with the [U.S.] Marines and it is great,” said Seaman 2nd Class Ariel Calingacion, a sailor with the Philippine Navy. “I feel comfortable working with them.”
“It’s very easy working alongside the Philippine service members, because they are very knowledgeable,” said Lance Cpl. Ricardo Montes, an Orland, Calif., native, and combat engineer with Bravo Co., 9th ESB. “They know a lot about construction and are very versatile.”
Each year, PHIBLEX provides an opportunity for the U.S. and Philippine armed forces to learn together, exchange best practices and build enduring relationships.
“The purpose of this exercise is to generally rehearse the concepts we have learned overtime with the Philippine military, those concepts being operations we would have to perform in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission,” said Kabilian, a native of Marshfield, Mass.
3d MEB generates speed of response in the Asia-Pacific region to areas affected by humanitarian disasters and provides capability as quickly as possible to save lives and reduce human suffering. Bilateral exercises such as PHIBLEX 33 ensure the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces train together to respond effectively during a real-world humanitarian disaster.
“[I am] looking forward to a better future and better cooperation between the U.S. Marines, U.S. Seabees and all of you,” said Calingacion. “Thank you for caring and we love you guys.”