120 soldiers from Guam join ‘Balikatan’ 2011

April 4, 2011 10:32 pm 

MANILA, April 4 -– A company-sized troop from Guam, United States territory, is sending soldiers for the joint Philippine-United States Balikatan Exercises 2011 starting Tuesday, April 5, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday.

AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said around 120 soldiers from the Guam Guard's 105th Troop Command Headquarters, 1671st Signal Detachment, Guam Army National Guard Element and Medical Detachment, will be participating in the exercise for approximately two weeks as part of their annual training requirements.

Oban also said the US military is scaling back its participation in the annual RP-US Balikatan exercise due to ongoing relief efforts in Japan.

He said 6,000 US troops originally intended to participate in the bilateral exercise, the number of American soldiers who will join their Filipino counterparts for the joint training, has been reduced to 3,000.

Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder” in Filipino) has been held for 27 years. The first phase of the exercise has begun in Central and Northern Luzon, where Filipino and American troops engaged in the construction of five two-room elementary school buildings, one each in five remote barangays in Zambales and Tarlac provinces.

According to US military officials, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) based in Okinawa, one of the units that have been taking part in previous Balikatan exercises, will not be part of this year’s joint military training with the AFP.

The 31st MEU is currently aboard the USS Essex, the lead ship in a Navy amphibious ready group, taking part in the Operation Tomadachi, where American troops are providing disaster relief in the earthquake and tsunami-hit island of Japan.

While the 31st MEU may not be part of this year’s Balikatan exercises, 500 US troops from the Eighth Army based in South Korea are expected to head for the Philippines for the bilateral training.

Some 420 Marines from the 4th Marine Regiment are also currently in the country for the training. (PNA) DCT/JCA

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