PACIFIC OCEAN - The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) departed White Beach, Okinawa, March 29 to participate in the 29th annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military exercise Balikatan.
Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement and will take place in the from April 5 to 17.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military have a longstanding relationship," said Cmdr. John Barnett, commanding officer of USS Tortuga. "Balikatan contributes to regional security and stability as well as strengthening our roots of cooperation with the Philippine people."
During the exercise, military medical personnel will offer free medical, dental and veterinary care. Military engineers will construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities.
"This exercise helps us maintain a high level of interoperability," said Barnett. "It enhances military-to-military relations and combined combat capabilities."
The exercises performed focus on training both U.S. and Philippine armed forces with the goal of providing assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that may occur.
"Exercises like this allow our Sailors and Marines to get to know their Philippine counterparts and develop lasting partnerships," said Cmdr. Douglas Patterson, executive officer of USS Tortuga. "It helps give us a better understanding of their operational style so we can work together more efficiently as well as provide assistance to local communities."
In addition to field exercises, military service members from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Camp O'Donnell, Crow Valley, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay to improve interoperability and contingency planning.
Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and is deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, commander of Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.