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Cpl. Blake Ericksonworks together Philippine Navy Seabees, members of their naval construction battalions, to fill wheelbarrows with cement mix while working on the humanitarian civic assistance project at Binduyan Elementary School Oct. 4, during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15). PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy Forces. It focuses on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations. Erickson is a combat engineer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Robert D. Williams Jr.

Ribbon cutting ceremony during PHIBLEX 2015 concludes humanitarian assistance projects

13 Oct 2015 | Lance Cpl. Robert D. Williams Jr. III Marine Expeditionary Force

U.S. and Philippine service members complete the Humanitarian Civic Assistance projects at the Concepcion and Binduyan elementary schools Oct. 8, during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15).

“The PHIBLEX exercise was a success because everything we came out here to do we accomplished before our timeline,” said Gunnery Sgt. Luis Respardo, a platoon sergeant with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The HCA projects consisted of building walkways, overhangs and multipurpose concrete areas. These were designed to benefit the schools in various ways according to Respardo. The U.S. Marines worked with the Philippine Navy Seabees, members of their naval construction battalions, worked constantly to complete the projects.

“They were working late and constantly tired,” said Respardo, from Chicago, Illinois. “The weather affected us severely because it rained a lot, and working with concrete, they really don’t mix. Despite that we accomplished the mission.”

Even though the workload was strenuous, that’s not what made the exercise unique for the unit, according to Capt. Kyle McCarley, company commander of 9th ESB.

“The school is in session. You can see many of the students have built relationships with the Marines and the seabees that were working on the project,” said McCarley, from Thousand Oaks, California. “That relationship has strengthened the project. Having the children in the schools watching the Marines and Seabees working on the projects for them and their schools will definitely leave a lasting impact on the children at these elementary schools.”

As PHIBLEX 15 comes to an end, the Marines reflect on their experiences and hope for more like them in the future, according to McCarley.

“I would jump all on it if I had the opportunity to come back to a follow on PHIBLEX,” said McCarley. “This has been a phenomenal experience to be able watch my Marines develop their MOS; to work hand-in-hand with the Philippine seabees and to watch them build something from the ground up. It’s also a humbling experience to see them build something that will benefit these schools for years to come.”