Marines from the 31st Expeditionary Unit embark the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in combat rubber raiding craft during PHIBLEX 33. (U.S. Navy/PO3 Patrick Dionne)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, departed Subic Bay as scheduled following Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 33, Oct. 12.

Launched from ships of the BHR ESG, U.S. Marines trained shoulder-to-shoulder with their Philippine marine corps counterparts, conducting amphibious landings, live-fire exercises and airborne insertions across Luzon, the country's largest island. For PHIBLEX 33, 1,386 U.S. personnel from five military services learned how to work better together through a series of training events.

PHIBLEX is an annual exercise held between the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to increase interoperability in order to jointly respond to natural disasters or regional contingencies.

"Our PHIBLEX presented a wonderful opportunity to maximize integration not only among the members of the Philippines and the United States armed forces; it further provided an opportunity for closer integration among Filipinos, Americans, and other partner nationalities of goodwill," said Philippine Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Maximo Ballesteros, exercise director, during the PHIBLEX closing ceremonies in Manila.

U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Jansen, commanding general, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, stressed how much U.S. and Philippine forces learned from each other.

"Our training together as marines makes us all better marines, and more capable as an interoperable force that provides the capability that we might apply to our treaty obligations in the future, whether it be in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, assistance in internal security, or in other times of crisis as determined by our two great nations," said Jansen.

Not only was the 31st MEU involved in bilateral training, they were also involved in several outreach programs to benefit the local community. Building on a longstanding tradition of humanitarian assistance in the Philippines, Navy medical professionals, part of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, conducted public health training to more than 1,000 Filipino students and teachers, while practicing mass casualty response with their counterparts in the Philippine Navy.

Sailors of the BHR ESG and Philippine Navy also exchanged expertise on beach master operations, anti-submarine warfare, beach survey operations, command and control, shipboard operations, and strengthening the two navies' ability to operate together.

"This was my first PHIBLEX, and I was able to immediately see the value to both our militaries as our two forces worked side-by-side in multiple mission areas," said Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton, commander, ESG 7. "The opportunity to train here together was of immediate and long term benefit to the joint force teams of the Philippines and the U.S."

ESG units include flagship amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20), amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 31st MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment,, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 Reinforced.