Trilateral exercise in Philippines focuses on HADR, counterterrorism

Trilateral exercise in Philippines focuses on HADR, counterterrorism

Felix Kim

Amphibious units from Japan, the Philippines and the United States deployed October 1-10, 2018, to the Philippine island of Luzon to engage in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and counterterrorism drills for exercise KAMANDAG 2.

For the second consecutive year, U.S. Marines joined their Philippine counterparts for the exercise, which gave the newly formed Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) its first chance to participate in an exercise outside of Japanese territory. The U.S. Navy’s amphibious dock landing ship, USS Ashland, also participated.

KAMANDAG 2 began with opening ceremonies at the Subic Bay International Airport followed by drills at locations around the island. These included an amphibious landing, a boat raid and live-fire operations. About 1,000 Marines from the United States, 350 from the Philippines and 100 from Japan took part in the 10-day exercise.

In the landing drill, the ARDB launched its assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) from the Ashland in response to a simulated mass casualty crisis. The AAVs were recovered by Ashland Sailors and U.S. Marines from 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“This is a milestone achievement and a significant step forward in capability development for Japan’s newly established amphibious force,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, in a prepared statement. “The JGSDF and JMSDF [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] have made enormous strides in their amphibious capability since establishment of the ARDB just six months ago. We are proud to work side by side with our friends from Japan and the Philippines during this exercise and look to the future with great anticipation to train together.”

Shortly after completion of KAMANDAG 2, Japan’s ARDB teamed up again with U.S. Marines to conduct a joint exercise on Tanegashima Island in southwestern Japan, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency. That exercise also involved a landing by ARDB troops, this time in a drill to retake the island from a hypothetical enemy. (Pictured: Marines from Japan and the U.S. observe impacts on a target during the KAMANDAG 2 exercise in the Philippines.)

The amphibious landing was followed by live-fire drills on Luzon Island involving U.S. and Philippine Marines that focused on sharpening their expertise and dexterity in counterterrorism operations, according to a news release from the U.S. Marines. Philippine Marine Lt. Col. Henry R. Espinoza, chief of staff of the Philippine Marine Ready Force, described amphibious operations as “a core competency that shapes who we are as Marines.”

KAMANDAG is a Filipino acronym that stands for “Alongside the Warriors of the Sea.” The exercise aims to boost cooperation and interoperability among the three militaries as they continue to lend each other military support and share information.

Felix Kim is FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea