Puerto Princesa Airport Aircraft rescue and firefighting and U.S. Marines AARF practiced putting out fires on the flight line of the Puerto Princesa Airport April 22, 2012 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Republic of the Philippines.
Both nations took part in this unique opportunity in support of Exercise Balikatan 2012, which officially began April 16, 2012. This is just one of the many bilateral training activities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Task Force Palawan that is taking place during BK12, an annual bilateral training exercise designed to build the joint interoperability between Philippine and U.S. military members.
The firefighters of PPA and ARFF Marines trained with one another in simulated aircraft crashes before tackling a real fire.
“Training together increased everyone’s knowledge,” said Gino S. Decano, a fire fighter at PPA. “We learned new techniques from working with each other.”
For many in the PPA fire department, going to a fire academy is not always likely, this was the first time for some to encounter different skills and different knowledge, said Decano.
This bilateral training did not only enhance the Filipinos knowledge and skills, but it also increased the proficiencies and techniques of the U.S. ARFF Marines.
“This training allows [the Marines] to work hand and hand with other country’s fire departments and see how they train and operate,” said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Talan J. Wyenandt, the crash crew chief of ARFF with Aviation Operations Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “If an emergency does occur, we can react in the same way they would and without hesitation or confusion.”
The actual fire drill, officially dubbed Main Effort BK12, used approximately 100 gallons of fuel and many safety precautions were taken to insure the utmost safety of all personnel and the land, said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Hall, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the U.S. Marines ARFF.
“We had a fire extinguisher with us while lighting the pits. Also, two P-19 [fire trucks], a fire suppress system and about 4,000 gallons of water from our trucks and theirs were all on stand-by throughout the exercise,” said Hall. “We also had two outside safety officers, whom checked for proper gear, and one safety officer with the Marines as they were fighting the fire.”
Training bilaterally enhances both nations’ skills, techniques, knowledge and performance.
“Bilateral training is good because it builds international cooperation between military and civilian services to work hand in hand in accomplishing the mission and learning from each other how to accomplish the mission,” said Wyenandt.
Balikatan continues to prove to be of great importance and highly effective for all who partake in the training evolutions.
“Balikatan for me is good because we have knowledge, but it’s inside the box. When we are able to train with the Marines our knowledge becomes larger and outside of the box,” said Decano.
BK12, in its 28th iteration, also includes several humanitarian civic assistance projects across Palawan, ground military training operations on both Palawan and Luzon provinces and a natural disaster response command post exercise in Luzon province.