PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines — U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) personnel recently participated in Balikatan 23, a multi-week annual combined-joint military exercise between the Philippines and the United States that concluded April 28.
This year marked the 38th iteration of the exercise and was the largest Balikatan exercise to date which incorporated training activities throughout the Philippines.
"Balikatan" is a Tagalog term meaning "shoulder-to-shoulder" or "sharing the load together," which characterizes the efforts of the exercise and represents the spirit of the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
During this year’s Balikatan, more than 17,600 total troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military were joined by approximately 100 members of the Australian Defense Force to train shoulder-to-shoulder to increase proficiency in maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism operations, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
MSRT West personnel operated in multiple locations throughout the Philippines and provided maritime interdiction operations training alongside various units and servicemembers from U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command.
During the exercise, MSRT West personnel trained, operated, and lived alongside partner agencies in the Philippines, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard Special Operations Forces, the Philippine Force Reconnaissance Group, and the Philippine Naval Special Operations Unit.
The deployed MSRT West personnel participated in the exercise's opening ceremonies, integrated with command-and-control elements, conducted close-quarters combat training, shared tactical shipboarding skills, maritime operational planning, littoral and maritime target analysis, static hook and climb training, basic tropical environment survival training, and law enforcement case package preparation exchanges.
“The opportunity to train alongside some of the best men and women from our allies and partner services is rewarding and beneficial as we all have a chance to learn from each other, improve interoperability and enhance our overall readiness,” said Lt. Nicolas Phillips, MSRT West’s Deployable Team Leader for Balikatan. “Balikatan facilitated great training in the Philippines for our team to integrate with our defense partners and enrich our working relationships in pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The San Diego-based MSRT West is one of the Coast Guard's Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF), specializing in high-risk law enforcement operations. Additional DSF units include Maritime Safety and Security Teams, Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, Port Security Units, Regional Dive Lockers, and National Strike Teams. MSRT West personnel deploy domestically and abroad as a unit or as part of adaptive force packages joining with other DSF, shore and maritime-based forces, or alongside federal, state, local and international partners.