APRIL 22, 2016, CAMP CAPINPIN, Philippines – Balikatan means shoulder-to-shoulder in the Philippines. That is the goal, the theme, and the point of a series of annual exercises that where held during April in the Philippines. Balikatan is a series of preparedness exercises that are staged through-out the country incorporating the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the National Guard.
Hawaii National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Enhanced Response Force Package (CERF-P) team noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class, Jason Kaaiakamanu stated, “Our role here is to show them (the AFP) our techniques, and procedures as far as what we do for search and extraction. Along those lines we know that they have a lot more natural disasters where they can use those techniques more then we do in Hawaii.”
The Hawaii National Guard CERF-P’s search and rescue team has been participating in Balikatan every year since 2011. The Hawaii National Guard supports Balikatan through the National Guard State Partnership Program with the aim of building capability across the disaster response forces of both countries. This year, the armed Forces of the Philippines and the Hawaii National Guard are conducting an urban search and rescue interoperability exercise during Balikatan at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, and Rizal.
During the events at Camp Capinpin, the search and rescue Soldiers from the Hawaii Army National Guard will be reviewing life saving techniques that will include rope rescue, shoring of walls and structures, confined space, breaching and lifting of concrete, patient packaging and decontamination principles. The event will culminate in an interoperability exercise which will test the techniques rehearsed during the week.
“Everything we demonstrate can be used in a natural disaster, depending on the scenario. If they have to go in to villages, or do rescues of mountain sides, it can all be incorporated in to what they have to do here on a yearly bases,” said Kaaiakamanu. “It is good for us to come but we also have members of the AFP returning every year to refresh their skills and to help instruct the new students. It is about building relationships with the AFP.”
One of the focuses of Balikatan is to build a coalition of rescue operations experts and journeymen who are versed in each others’ standard operating practices so that in the event of a natural or man-made disaster there will be less confusion in the initial and follow on responses.
“Balikatan 2016 Urban Search and Rescue Field Training Exercise, gives more knowledge and experience to the organic personnel of the Philippine Army.” said Philippine Army Major Ricardo Villaruel, 2016 Balikatan Field Training Exercise Liaison Officer “The Philippine Army also has a disaster response team in every unit they are here participating in the exercise. The capabilities brought by the Hawaii National Guard is very important.”
The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters, as they have been struck by multiple typhoons a year for the past few years, and are also prone to earthquakes, and tsunamis. These are the same kinds of disasters that Hawaii also potentially faces which is part of the reason Hawaii National Guard is assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The National Guard State Partnership Program partners countries with National Guard from different states through out the country to help build coalitions and grow interoperability between forces while helping each other increase their individual knowledge and proficiency.