Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Warriors of the North to host upcoming Unit Effectiveness Inspection capstone team

by Staff Sgt. Susan L. Davis
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/17/2015 - GRAND FORKS AFB, N.D. -- The 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base will undergo an official Unit Effectiveness Inspection capstone visit beginning April 20, 2015 and wrapping up April 28.

The UEI is the new inspection concept that was piloted in U.S. Air Forces Europe and extended to Field Operating Agencies and Direct Reporting Units in 2012. Air Mobility Command adopted the UEI inspection system in the summer of 2013.

"Under the old way of doing things, the inspection teams would come in with a black hat mentality, and focus on the things that were wrong," said Lt. Col. Aaron Bass, 319th Air Base Wing Inspector General. "This new system is not intended to be adversarial."

Bass explained that the new inspection system came about as a way to break the cycle of ramping up for an upcoming inspection, getting into compliance with instructions and regulations at the last minute before the inspectors arrived (even going so far as to literally paint the grass green sometimes), sweeping things under the rug, and letting things settle back down again after the inspectors left.

"The concept of 'inspection prep' is becoming obsolete," said Bass. "Inspections are now being done continually by the Wing Inspection Team or WIT. We are trying to get people to change their thinking about inspections. Instead of gearing up for inspections, our focus should show in our daily mission readiness."

There are four major graded areas inspectors will assess, including resource management, unit improvement, leading people, and mission execution. Each of these is essentially a measure of how well an organization is run.

Along with the adoption of a new mindset comes the application of a new two-year inspection cycle.

"Here at Grand Forks, we are near the end of our first inspection cycle," said Bass. "The cycle starts over when the capstone team departs."

Bass said that is when units will take the findings of the inspection and use them to make the needed improvements, along with other self-inspection tools such as the Management Internal Control Toolset (MICT) and the Inspector General Evaluation Management System (IGEMS).

Bass stressed that for UEIs, honesty is the best policy.

"Being honest, using MICT to self-police, and showing that you're making strides and continual improvement are all paramount to making this inspection system work," he said. "We have got to be fully invested in self-assessment."

Bass advised that Grand Forks Air Force Base members, including family members, should be aware that they might be asked for an interview about their responsibilities in their work environments, the role they play in their unit, or their experiences on base in general, and that all responses should be as open and honest as possible.

Inspectors will arrive in two waves beginning April 20 and begin working immediately following their arrival. Their primary workspace will include the Northern Lights Club Ballroom, and they will conduct the majority of their interviews in a group setting in classrooms inside Carl Ben Eielson Elementary School.

"If we're honest, we should let the inspectors see us in our steady-state operations," said Bass. "It's what they want to see, and it's what we need to show them. If we can show that we're experts at our jobs, we're well-informed, and we take pride in our wing, we will do well during the UEI. They are our guests, they're not here to catch us, and they're here to help us identify things so we can effectively accomplish our mission."

U.S. Warships Help Ensure Maritime Security in Arabian Sea

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015 – The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy are now operating in the Arabian Sea in response to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, a Defense Department spokesman said today.

Briefing the Pentagon press corps here this morning, Army Col. Steve Warren said the U.S. warships “are operating [in the Arabian Sea] with a very clear mission to ensure that shipping lanes remain open, to ensure there's freedom of navigation through those critical waterways, and to help ensure maritime security.”

On April 19, the Roosevelt, escorted by the Normandy, transited the Strait of Hormuz from its station in the Arabian Gulf to the Arabian Sea, according to a recent release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs.

The Roosevelt and the Normandy have joined other U.S. forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea, the release said.

Situation in Yemen

In January, Houthi militiamen took over the presidential palace in Sanaa and shortly afterward President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned and ultimately fled to Aden, according to press reports, leaving the rebel group from Northern Yemen in charge of the capital.

The Houthis represent the country’s Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Near the end of March, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began launching air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

During his first official press briefing on April 16, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States is helping Saudi Arabia “protect their own territory and conduct operations … designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement in Yemen. That is our understanding and our objective.”

U.S. Sea Power in the Gulf of Aden

The Defense Department also is watching a convoy of nine Iranian cargo ships now in international waters in the Gulf of Aden, Warren said. According to news reports, the ships may be trying to deliver arms to support the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“They have not declared their intentions or [indicated] what they're going to do,” Warren said. “At this point [the ships] have demonstrated no … threat.”

He added that having American sea power close by will allow the United States to keep a close eye on the cargo ships.

“By having U.S. ships in the region,” Warren said, “we … preserve options should the security situation deteriorate to the point where there is a problem or a threat to freedom of navigation or to the shipping lanes or to overall maritime security.”

The new Remote Sensing Systems Directorate is activated

from Space and Missile Systems Center
Space and Missile Systems Center

4/15/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- The Space and Missile Systems Center announced the activation of a new organization, the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate.  The new directorate combines the Infrared Space Systems and Defense Weather Systems Directorates to create synergies by leveraging the diverse capability portfolios. The consolidation will generate operating efficiencies and create opportunities to leverage remote sensing technologies and innovation.

"The combination of Air Force Overhead Persistent Infrared and Weather Systems into one Directorate creates maximum value across our enterprise.  It's an exciting opportunity for our Air Force, warfighters in the field, and our nation," said Colonel Mike Guetlein, Director of the new organization.  "By merging two world-class acquisition teams, we intend to deliver ground-breaking new products and leverage existing and planned National Security Space platforms to create more affordable and resilient capabilities.  We believe there are meaningful operational efficiencies, and cross-platform synergies that will yield operational benefits to our warfighters."

"The SBIRS and Weather program offices have been instrumental in providing game-changing warfighter capabilities and, by combining these offices into one remote sensing portfolio, we will accelerate the pace of warfighter support through innovation while realizing efficiencies to keep our space systems affordable," said Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, the Program Executive Officer for Air Force Space Programs.

The new Remote Sensing Systems Directorate is responsible for both the Air Force's Overhead Persistent Infrared mission area providing missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, technical intelligence, and civil support as well as the environmental monitoring mission, including space and terrestrial weather monitoring.

Moroccan state partners observe Utah Guard landmine removal training

by Staff Sgt. Annie Edwards
151 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2015 - SALT LAKE CITY -- Two members of the Moroccan Military, serving as delegates through the State Partnership Program, observed training events and demonstrations put on by their Utah Army and Air National Guard counterparts at the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base and Camp Williams April 7-9.

The Moroccan delegates spent time with explosive ordnance technicians from the Air Guard's 151st Civil Engineering Squadron and attended a presentation taught by a civilian contractor about how the Army trains Soldiers to deal with improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance.

The visit culminated in the observation of a training exercise conducted at the IED Training Lane at Camp Williams during which a simulated landmine was found in a village. Engineers from the Army's 1457th Engineer Battalion responded to the incident and called in Air Guard explosive ordinance disposal assets to remove the hazard.

This training event was very beneficial for the Guardsmen because it provided them an opportunity to improve their job skills while working with individuals from another branch of service, said 2nd Lt. Corey Lewis, training officer with 1457th.

Additionally, the opportunity to participate in the State Partnership Program brought a different perspective to the training event.

"We get to work closely with the Moroccan delegation that is here and demonstrate some of our capabilities and through a question and answer session, we both benefit from each other by lessons learned," said Lewis.

Master Sgt. Timothy Edwards, an EOD technician with the 151st EOD Flight, has put on demonstrations of EOD capabilities for past delegation visits, but said this visit was different for his flight because of the discussion following the training event.

"The opportunity to hear another country's approach to dealing with [unexploded ordinance] was interesting," said Edwards. "It can be beneficial for us to hear a new perspective."

The State Partnership Program, first established in 1993, links a state's National Guard with armed forces from a partner nation and includes 68 security partnerships involving 74 nations. These partnerships provide the opportunity to create cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships.

Utah National Guard members have been working with their Moroccan counterparts since 2003.

Western Hemisphere cooperation highlights SICOFAA's 54th Anniversary

by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant
12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

4/21/2015 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- Members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) gathered to commemorate another year of success for the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces, with a 54th birthday celebration April 16th.

SICOFAA began as a meeting of officers from 13 different countries in 1961, led by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Thomas D. White, with the goal of strengthening the bond between the Air Forces in the Western Hemisphere.

"SICOFAA's primary mission is to promote and strengthen the ties of friendship and the mutual support of its participants through the sharing of common experiences, resources, the training and education of its personnel," said Col. Alberto Moreno, SICOFAA Secretary General.

That first meeting evolved into an annual conference now known as the Conference of the Air Chiefs of the Americas, abbreviated in Spanish as CONJEFAMER, which has since grown to include 20 countries. There are also five observer nations and two special guest organizations.

SICOFAA is permanent secretariat formed in 1965 and has since been hosted by the U.S. Air Force. The deputy secretary general position rotates amongst the other 20 Air Forces for two year tours in alphabetical order of the country they represent.

Through the building of partner capacity members of SICOFAA are able to work in a combined atmosphere where political and diplomatic channels might be constrained. Even after more than 50 years, SICOFAA is continuously expanding its reach, and has recently added Mexico as its newest member.

"Mexico became a member less than two years ago and will hosts this year's Conference of American Chiefs, taking place this June in Mexico City," said Capt. Kawika Berggren, SICOFAA executive officer.

Recently, SICOFAA has taken on a new focus of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, partnership capacity building, and enhancing interoperability between partner nations. The culmination of this focus has been the establishment of doctrine on how SICOFAA member air forces would operate cohesively during an actual HA/DR event.

"The SICOFAA member nations have now created and published the SICOFAA Manual for Combined Air Operations in Humanitarian Support and Disaster Relief," said Moreno.  "It is a doctrine manual on how SICOFAA is to participate in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations."

The Chilean earthquake of 2010 forced the SICOFAA members to realize the need for closer coordination. Soon after, the organization held exercise COOPERACION I, focusing on HA/DR. In April 2013, SICOFAA held its second HA/DR exercise with COOPERACION II.

"Next year's HA/DR Exercise Cooperation III, will incorporate flying units and will be held in Peru from April to May," Moreno said. "It is an exciting time because 13 member nations are participating in COOPERATION III, most of them with air assets."

Pilot for a Day Program hosts Ian Straight

by Airman Ashley Williams
121st Air Refueling Wing

4/14/2015 - RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio -- Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing here hosted a "new pilot" during their Pilot for a Day Program here March 19.

Ian Straight, a 12-year-old from Lancaster was chosen to participate in the program, which allows youth with chronic or life threatening illnesses the opportunity to enjoy a day of military experiences.

"This is our second one we've done and we try to do at least one every quarter," said Capt. Cassandra Seward, the wing executive officer with the 121st ARW. "We partner with Nationwide Children's Hospital and they allow us to bring a child over for a day. Usually, we try to pick someone who is either chronically or terminally ill, so they can spend the day out here at the base learning what we do and seeing what it would be like to be a pilot or an Airman for the day."

Ian was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in March 2013, and after four rounds of intensive chemotherapy he has been declared cancer free for more than a year.

"It was a rough road, but we've made it through a large part of it and we are so excited and thankful to move forward with the help of so many people," said Jenny Straight, Ian's mother.

During the day, Ian was able to participate in multiple activities such as wearing a flight suit, marshalling aircraft, touring the fire department and much more.

"Today was awesome, he got to be an honorary pilot for the day with the U.S. Air Force and we got to participate in all kinds of things," said Todd Straight, Ian's father. "We can't thank you guys enough for the experience and the memories we have from this."

Attack Wing security forces competes unique super drill experience

by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
111th Attack Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2015 - FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- Nearly 60 Guard Airmen from the 111th Attack Wing's security forces squadron participated in a four-day team building and skills training event April 9-12 at the state's joint-force training center here and Gettysburg National Military Park.

While they've participated in super drills like this in the past, the occasion marked the first time such group training was held in state.

"Normally, we conduct this sort of training outside of Pennsylvania," said 25-year unit veteran Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Maund, 111th Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent. "For example, we travel out west for desert warfare training or we utilize [Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey]. But in training here, we're using in-state resources. It's beneficial for both our members and the state itself. There are many assets at Fort Indiantown Gap that we haven't employed in the past and are learning to use now; I believe we'll continue to do so in the future."

The exercise spanned a variety of combat-readiness scenarios, from convoy campaigns to night-vision operations. Each event not only served to employ real-world readiness, it also functioned to instill and strengthen esprit de corps within the squadron.

"This event allows us to come out here and practice our craft," said Lt. Col. Christine Munch, commander of the 111th SFS. "During normal drills, our members are doing [computer-based training], going to medical appointments and accomplishing those types of requirements, but it's very difficult to practice squad integrity. Squad integrity is very important to us--that's how we move. When we deploy beyond the walls of a [forward operating base] we function as a squad; practicing that in every environment enforces that model."

Master Sgt. Kenneth Gabor, 111th SFS unit training manager, described the event as miniature deployment training, instilling critical experience for less-seasoned security forces Airmen.

"I think our new troops are really enjoying being able to get out and actually do the things they have been taught to do," said Gabor. "In the past year or so, we've gotten a lot of new Airmen [in the 111th SFS] and this has been a great experience for them by bringing the squads together, bringing that teamwork together."

Munch described highlights she witnessed during the training.

"An airman first class realized [during the obstacle course event] that there was someone left behind, stopped what he was doing and made sure that the last person in his squad got through -- he set the bar," she said. "He understood what today was about."

While comradery served as the theme throughout the training drill, the Guardsmen were also eager to apply theory to the hands-on tasks.

"We've learned the book work, and now it's nice to be able to apply it in the real world," said Senior Airman Chelsea Rainier, 111th SFS. "I feel we are getting more involved training than we normally would since we have more space here. Also, usually during drill the time for squad training is limited, whereas here we really can work on team building."

The goals of the super drill were: weapons qualifications; vehicle training; virtual convoy training; night operations; taser and baton training; and living in deployed conditions.

In the end, aside from the training, solidarity was what their time at "The Gap" was all about.

"We've seen the group come together a lot more since we began our training here," said Gabor. "In just this four-day event away from the base, there's been an increase in group integrity. As a leader, that's one of the greatest experiences to witness."

Oregon Airmen mobilize for overseas assignment

by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/14/2015 - CLACKAMAS, Ore.  -- Nearly 90 members of the Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Squadron were recognized during a formal mobilization ceremony held April 11 at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Camp Withycombe here as they mobilize to provide surveillance and air space management for air operations in and around the Arabian Gulf.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown addressed the deploying Airmen and their families, identifying the sacrifice that Citizen-Airmen continue to make to support overseas contingency operations.

"Your presence overseas will aid important global missions and I have no doubt you will represent Oregon with courage, skill and honor," Brown said to the departing Airmen. "The void of the unit that is still here ... the family unit; thank you for your courage and forbearance."

The 116th ACS based at Camp Rilea in Warrenton is a deployable radar and communications unit that provides air control, communications and operations in military airspaces. The Airmen are schedule to deploy to Southwest Asia for approximately six months.

The Airmen of the 116th will support air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements, aerial surveillance and reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, air-to-air refueling, humanitarian support, and Patriot missile defense.

Other ceremony attendees included Army Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Adjutant General, Oregon, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, Air Component Commander.

Addressing those in attendance, Hokanson traced the history of the National Guard's 377 years of service back to the 'First Muster' of colonial militia in Massachusetts on December 13, 1636, to the present day with the Airmen from the 116th mobilized for duty.

"Like their forefathers, the Citizen-Airmen before us are stepping forward, leaving their families and employers; volunteering to serve their nation and to help make our world a better place," Hokanson said.

Since 9/11 the 116th ACS has made numerous overseas deployments; beginning in 2006 in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraq in 2008 in support of the Global War on Terror and Qatar in 2011, to provide Air Defense of the Arabian Gulf.

As the unit has mobilized for major operations the past 14 years, new members continue to join the ACS, eager to contribute to the current mission.

After enlisting just over a year ago, Airman 1st Class Lindsie N. Gallardo, assigned to the 116th ACS as a surveillance technician, is embarking on her first deployment.

"I work in command and control. Our preparation has been excellent so we'll definitely be ready," said Gallardo. "We have been given a plethora of scenarios in our training and I have confidence in our whole team based on their experience on previous deployments."

Gallardo says she knows her family is supporting her as she makes her first trip abroad.

"They are behind me 100 percent, no doubt," she said. "While I am taking a break from college, this deployment allows me to develop all the new skills I have been working on."

Some of those new skills will be quickly put to use once she arrives overseas.

"I wanted to join this particular unit because I wanted to talk directly with the pilots, point out who are good guys from the bad guys. Maybe someday I can be the pilot on the other end but for now, it is one step at a time."

Until the unit returns, family and friends will miss birthdays, anniversaries and other special events as the Airmen are deployed.

"I realize that this deployment also requires sacrifices by your families and loved ones," said Brown. "I speak for all Oregonians when I say that we will anxiously await your safe return. You will never be far from our thoughts and prayers."

Airmen get hands-on training during wing's first rodeo

by Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
109th AW Public Affairs

4/19/2015 - STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- More than 200 Airmen received hands-on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training along with self-aid buddy care training during the 109th Airlift Wing's first ancillary training rodeo here April 18.

The mass training began in the Dining Facility as trainees were given CBRN and then SABC training before heading out for the hands-on portion. During the SABC briefing, the instructors played out a scene of a combat situation demonstrating how effective SABC can save a life. The Airmen were then broken up in two groups as half headed over to don their chemical gear and the other half went to put their SABC skills to the test.

Staff Sgt. Adam Winters of the Small Air Terminal said the SABC briefing really set the pace for the hands-on portion.

"Being able to be hands on can help young Airmen to remember these kinds of things if they ever deploy and a real-world combat situation happens," Winters said. "This type of training will be very beneficial to them as well as just being able to know what (you need to do) in a time of need."

The SABC hands-on portion included stations on applying a tourniquet, mass casualty, quick clots, nerve agents, traumatic brain injury and more.

"(Senior Master Sgt. Joseph) O'Connor and myself have met a good 30 times to go over this," said Master Sgt. Candace Stefanik, 109th AW SABC adviser, on the planning that went into the rodeo. "We're getting a lot of training done in one day, and making sure everyone is really comfortable with the hands-on portion of the SABC is very important."

During the hands-on portion of the CBRN training, Airmen started off with donning their mission-oriented protective posture gear as instructors went around to ensure gear was on correctly and done in a timely manner.

"We're teaching all these Airmen how to survive in a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive environment," said Airman 1st Class Rafael Lopez, CBRN instructor with the 109th Civil Engineer Squadron's emergency management office.  "People haven't been in these suits in a long time, but after running them through drills and getting them going, people were catching on, helping out and having fun."

After donning their gear a few times, Airmen went to different stations to get instruction on things like M295, M9, zone transition points, post-attack reconnaissance, equipment checks and more.

Staff Sgt. Kathleen Gregory, of the 139th Airlift Squadron's loadmaster section, said she's done hands-on CBRN training before and it was very hectic. "This was very organized, and I really like how everything's been going."

"It's good training," said Airman Bradford Jollie, 109th Logistics Readiness Squadron. "It's good that everyone's getting out here and getting it done. After a couple times, it becomes very easy."

O'Connor, Emergency Management superintendent, said all the training during the rodeo went very smoothly.

"Units throughout New York are just starting to do (the rodeo training) for the first time, and this is the first time we've done this. This event started being planned back in the fall so it's been a long time coming and a lot of planning has gone into it. "

O'Connor said they received support from around the wing to make the rodeo happen, and things went even better than expected. 

"We built time into our schedule in case there were glitches, but we didn't need it and we're finishing up earlier than expected," he said. "My overall impression is that today went very well, and I'm just hoping the trainees feel the same way."

More ancillary training rodeos will be held in the future, as all Airmen on base are required to be trained within three years.

Military Exercises Begin in Ukraine, Philippines

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 – Military training exercises begin today in Ukraine for Fearless Guardian, and in the Philippines for the 31st iteration of Exercise Balikatan, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

During a briefing with Pentagon reporters, Army Col. Steve Warren said that about 300 Sky Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, will train members of the Ukraine National Guard at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv near the Polish border.

The United States has trained at the same center for years with other allies and partners, he added.

“This latest training, which is as valuable in peacetime as it is in times of conflict, is to establish a professional force that protects and defends Ukraine's people [and] the country's sovereignty,” Warren said.

Sky Soldiers

Three hundred Sky Soldiers will train about 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen during three training rotations, each about two months long, he said.

The small-unit trainers will focus on defensive and civil military operations.

Specific blocks of instruction include medical training, casualty evacuation, counter-unmanned-aerial-vehicle tactics, counter-insurgency training, counter-improvised-explosive-device training, and more, Warren said.

Human rights and use-of-force training also will be conducted, along with common soldier and collective tasks such as individual conduct and law of war, first aid, survival, land navigation, communication, unit operations, and counter-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training.

Joint Commission Plus Canada

“The Defense Department will continue to work closely with Ukraine to provide assistance, training and advising support,” Warren said, “including through our U.S.-Ukraine Joint Commission on Defense Cooperation, to Ukraine, over the long term.”

The Joint Commission formed in July 2014, and Canada was an observer at the inaugural meeting in October 2014. Later, Canadian leaders requested an invitation for membership on the Joint Commission.

On Feb. 2, Canada’s Defense Minister Rob Nicholson announced that Canada would join the commission “to better coordinate Canada’s ongoing provision of assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine

Warren said the United States also jointly hosts two Partnership for Peace exercises each year in Ukraine, a ground forces peacekeeping exercise called Rapid Trident and a naval exercise called Sea Breeze.

The training in small-unit tactics includes instruction on how to shoot, how to move, how to communicate and other individual soldier skills, Warren added, during which the National Guardsmen use Ukrainian weapons and their own munitions.

“Thus far, we have provided the Ukrainians with nonlethal aid only,” he said, adding that the department delivered 30 Humvees to Kiev in March and will deliver another 300 in the coming months.

The DoD is monitoring events in Ukraine, Warren said, “particularly in Eastern Ukraine where we know Russian forces are contributing to the destabilization and unrest.”

Exercise Balikatan

Also today in the Philippines, U.S. and Philippine forces began the 31st iteration of Exercise Balikatan, Warren said.

The annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement seeks to improve the readiness of participating U.S. and Philippine forces.

“It is a signature element of our alliance,” Warren said.

Balikatan takes place in the Philippines starting today to April 30, and about 6,000 U.S. personnel will participate this year, he said, noting that 4,100 of the forces will be U.S. Marines.

Humanitarian Assistance

The exercise trains Philippine and U.S. military forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

“This training proved invaluable during the relief mission [of November 2013] in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan,” Warren said. The typhoon devastated more than 35 provinces in the Philippines and displaced nearly half a million residents.

Military service members from both countries also will conduct combined command-post exercises and field training and live-fire exercises, the colonel said.