NAVAL and Marine personnel hope that they would acquire training and eventual expertise in anti-mine warfare from their American counterparts as navy forces from the US and the country worked on the fourth day of the naval exercise Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training (Carat) in Eastern Mindanao on Thursday.
This year’s Carat, the 18th between the US and the Philippine navies and even joined by the coast guards of both countries, is unique in that it included new fields of training and it was held for the first time in Eastern Mindanao.
Commo. Philip Cacayan, commander of Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, said Navy personnel hoped to learn new techniques in “mine countermeasures,” which is new in the exercise’s history.
Cacayan said that aside from the anti-mine warfare, that the Philippine military greatly needs as the country is an archipelagic nation, the soldiers would also learn nighttime troop insertions which involve SEAL (Sea-air-land) teams and even Marines.
Rear Adm. Tom Carney Jr., logistics commander of the US Seventh Fleet, said this year’s exercise between the US Navy and the Philippine Navy was not only for plain training, but even a real operation, as nearly 100 US Navy and Coast Guard divers are working with their Philippine counterparts in recovering the Philippine Air Force SF-260TP plane that crashed in the waters off Bataan less than two months ago.
“So this year’s exercise is not only a training exercise, but a real-world operation,” Carney, who is also the head of the US Navy delegation to the exercise, said.
According to some witnesses that included fishermen, the Air Force plane with body number 716 went down at around 7:15 a.m. off La Monja Island in Mariveles, Bataan, on May 18.
Since the crash, the Air Force has not recovered the debris of the plane, which left Sangley Point at around 6:52 a.m. for a proficiency and training flight above Corregidor Island.
Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, Air Force spokesman, could not say anything about the fate of its two pilots except that they are still missing.
Cacayan said the holding of the Carat in Eastern Mindanao will also test for the first time the capability of the government’s counterterrorism project Coast Watch South that was partly funded by the US and Australia.
The Navy official dismissed China’s claim that the Carat was a part of the PHL-US strategic partnership against Beijing, saying it has been planned long before the territorial dispute with China flared up.
In fact, Cacayan said that this year’s joint naval exercise was already on its 18th year.
The Navy said that the Carat will enhance its combined interoperability with the US Navy and tests their personnel and naval assets operational readiness.
Ultimately, it will also improve the naval defense capability of the Armed Forces.