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USS Essex Participates in Balikatan 2010
USS ESSEX, At sea – The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) began participating in exercise Balikatan 2010 (BK 10) March 9 in the Republic of the Philippines and its surrounding waters.

Balikatan, an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral military humanitarian assistance and training exercise, will take place in the Philippines March 9-19.

“Balikatan is a great opportunity to conduct training that is vital to maintaining readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and Philippine military forces," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex’s commanding officer. “It's a valuable exercise not just militarily, but also in terms of preparation for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.”

During the exercise, Essex Sailors will work with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to conduct humanitarian and civic assistance events, including multiple medical, dental, veterinary and engineering projects ashore. This part of Balikatan 2010 is designed to compliment reconstruction efforts done in the wake of typhoons that devastated part of the Philippines in 2009. Sailors and Marines will also work with their Filipino counterparts to conduct field-training exercises and various cross-training events.

To prepare for Balikitan 2010, Essex and Assault Craft Unit One (ACU 1) off-loaded support personnel assigned to the 31st MEU’s Aviation Combat Element (ACE) and dozens of vehicles and ground personnel March 8 at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. In addition, Essex hosted a group of Filipino service members during the week leading up to the exercise to help with planning and familiarization of the ship and its capabilities.

“It has always been a pleasure and privilege working alongside the friendly and accommodating U.S. Sailors and Marines,” said Philippine Navy Capt. Virme P. Torralba. “They are very professional and willing to share their knowledge and expertise.” 

Exercise Balikatan 2010 is the 26th in the series of these exercises. The term “balikatan” is a Tagalog word that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise, said Capt. Mark Weber, commander of Amphibious Squadron Eleven.

“It’s truly an appropriate title because one of the most important things we can do is to work side-by-side with our partner nations,” Weber said. “Exercises like Balikatan really allow us to build relationships and develop cohesion with our allies as we work toward the common goal of peace and stability throughout the Pacific region.”

Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is currently conducting spring patrol in the Western Pacific.
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