SAN FERNANDO CITY, Philippines -- Military personnel from the U.S, Philippines, Japan and France kicked off Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama, Oct. 11.
The virtual engagement focuses on the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of U.S. and Philippines to work together towards the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.
This year, subject matter experts and personnel from Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and France will participate during exchanges.
“Despite the challenges, our nations have continued to work together to beat the pandemic while maintaining our readiness, tactical acumen, and interoperability,” Rear Adm. Christopher Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7. Said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Throughout the planning and preparation, each commander, staff, and unit, all the way down to the most junior personnel have shown un-waivered commitment to each event, and shows their dedication to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
The Tagalog phrase “Sama Sama” or “together” is the central theme of the training. The exercise is aimed to provide valuable opportunities for participating militaries to learn and foster professional dialogue during subject matter expert exchanges.
The subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) events will feature a variety of joint training opportunities, to include diver training, aviation and information sharing, replenishment at sea (RAS) methods, maritime domain awareness (MDA), medical best practices, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and maritime law, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR).
“Togetherness…is a word that perfectly captures the essence of today and the following days' activities,” said Vice Adm. Adeluis Bordado, flag officer in-command of the Philippine Navy during the opening ceremony. “In the spirit of solidarity, we are here today to fulfill a common goal – to prepare, re-skill, and upgrade our training in addressing a spectrum of security threats – from transnational crime to counterterrorism, piracy, and narcotics problem and of course, territorial defense issues.”
This year’s exercise highlights the role of intergovernmental and nongovernmental experts aimed to improve the understanding of the operational environment. Participation will include representatives from EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Philippines, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
U.S. representatives participating in MTA Sama Sama include staff from CTF 72, CTF 73, CTF 75, CTF 76, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, III Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. 7th Fleet Band and Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Philippines.
As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as ESG 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.