SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines - The forward deployed Sailors of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) comprised of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and the amphibious transport dock USS Denver (LPD 9) joined Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to begin the annual Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) in the Philippines Oct. 14.

The two-week long training will be held simultaneously in various locations in Luzon covering the areas of Cavite , Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales and Pampanga and is designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness, and develop professional relationships between the two forces.

The first PHIBLEX was held in 2003, since then it has become a long-running annual bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces.

“While the events don’t change, every year we have new Marines and new leaders from both countries involved in the exercise, with new experiences to learn from,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Commander, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Battalion.

U.S. Marines will conduct security assistance, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training with their counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The U.S. Navy will operate concurrently with naval AFP service members focusing on preventative maintenance, leadership, logistics and damage control.

"We have several in-port engagements scheduled with our Filipino navy counterparts including an officer exchange and class room training in the areas of engineering and damage control," said Capt. Weber, Commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. "I am looking forward to what I think will be a very professionally rewarding experience and look forward to building on our already strong partnership."

In addition to training, medical assistance events and community service projects are scheduled as joint efforts between the U.S. and Philippine services.

"The importance of PHIBLEX is working with the Filipino forces. That is why we are really here," said Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. "I hope they can take away an appreciation for the Philippines and how to work with a foreign armed force, as most of them have never been here before.”

Sailors from the ARG will also participate in several community outreach programs, getting to better know the local people.

PHIBLEX is a regularly-scheduled exercise focusing on the interoperability of the service members of the armed forces of the Philippines and U.S. military personnel. The purpose of this exercise is to conduct bilateral training between the two military forces to maintain readiness, improve interoperability, and sustain the long-term security cooperation relationship shared between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States.