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SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) backloaded their Sailors, Marines, equipment and vehicles to their respective ships marking the end of Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) Oct. 30 in the Republic of the Philippines.
PHIBLEX is a bilateral training exercise designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue to build professional and personal relationships with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
"The training is focused on improving the readiness and interoperability of our forces," said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. "We successfully completed PHIBLEX for the 28th year, demonstrating the commitment between the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines to regional security and our long-time partnership."
The Sailors and Marines completed two weeks of integrated air-ground and amphibious training with the AFP. PHIBLEX also included civil-military engineering and medical action projects and community service events at various locations throughout Luzon.
"Anytime you get to work with another country, both sides benefit greatly," said Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer, 31st MEU.
"For example, during the beach raid, each of our forces were able to pick up different tactics, techniques and procedures. We also got a chance to involve the community with our engineering and medical capabilities missions. Having the chance to serve side by side with our Philippine Marine and Navy brethren in their communities drove home the point that all of the training goes back to helping us build relationships."
For many Sailors and Marines, this was their first opportunity to work with a foreign military like the AFP.
"This is the first time that our junior Sailors and Marines have trained alongside foreign military members," said Lee. "I am proud of their professionalism and hard work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines during PHIBLEX. Our success during this exercise proves how vital it is for our blue-green team to train with foreign nations on a range of military operations."
During the two-week exercise, the 31st MEU Marines conducted a combat marksmanship shoot and taught patrolling tactics used in the field. "This is my second time working with the Philippine Marines, but it's always fun to work with them and see how they operate," said Lance Cpl. Keith Arnold, Battalion Landing Team 2/7 Echo Company, 4th Platoon. "The language barrier was a challenge, but they were still eager to learn and picked up our patrolling tactics really fast."
Ships of the Essex ARG include the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).
"The experience gained during PHIBLEX complements our mutual training interests and combined ability to respond to crises across the range of military operations," said Lee. "The Essex ARG looks forward to honing our skills in future exercises with the Republic of the Philippines to strengthen our bilateral ties and integrated training."
Essex is part of the Essex ARG, which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.