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Balikatan 2019: Philippine Army, U.S. Marines, Australian Army work shoulder-to-shoulder

By Lance Cpl. Mark Fike | III Marine Expeditionary Force | April 1, 2019


BALIAN, Pangil, Laguna, Philippines- U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army engineers are working ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with the Philippine and Australian Army to construct a one-room building at Victor O. De Guia Jr. Memorial Elementary School in Balian, Pangil, Laguna, Philippines, March 30, 2019, as part of an engineering civic assistance project (ENCAP) during Exercise Balikatan.

“U.S. Marine Corps and the Philippine, U.S. and Australian armies are here to build a classroom for our special education program,” said Feliza Ambricio, the principal of the Victor O. De Guia Jr. Memorial Elementary School. “The engineers are working together with one goal in mind, to help the children,” she said.

After one month of construction, the Marines with 2nd Platoon Engineer Company A, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, alongside the 564th Engineer Construction Battalion of the Philippine Army and the 6th Engineer Support Regiment of the Australian Army have made great progress.

Engineers from 9th ESB are conducting two engineering civic assistance projects in the Republic of the Philippines as part of the 35th iteration of Balikatan 2019.

U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. James Birmingham, the platoon commander for 2nd Plt., Engineer Co A, 9th ESB, 3rd MLG, attributed that his Marines at ENCAP Site 3 have taken a positive approach to their mission in the Philippines. “My Marines have taken extremely well to this project,” said Birmingham, a native of Dexter, Michigan. “I’ve set an aggressive schedule for them, and they are hitting every milestone. They are learning a lot and having a lot of fun along the way.”

Birmingham went on to say that the Marines have been able to exchange best practices for construction skills and techniques with the Philippine and Australian Army.

“This training is great for (III Marine Expeditionary Force),” said Birmingham. “We are getting out in the (area of operations), training with our allies, learning how they do things, how we do things, just really trying to learn from each other, and at the same time, do something good for the community.”

“Our being out here really benefits both our nations, especially the local community,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Christian Gibbons a combat engineer with 2nd Plt., Engineer Co. A, 9th ESB, 3rd MLG. It gives 9th ESB the opportunity to send Marines out here to learn a different part of their job and give them the ability to train new Marines, Gibbons said.

The Marines plan to have the project finished by April 8, in time for the community ribbon cutting ceremony April 10.

“Balikatan” is a Filipino term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder”,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and represents the partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines, as well as their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty. It is an annual exercise between the U.S. military and Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with participants from the Australian Defence Force.

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