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NEWS | May 2, 2024

Nurturing Communities: U.S., Philippines Share Ideas During Civil-Military Operations SMEE

By Staff Sgt. Dana Beesley, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

Service members from the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps gathered at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Civil-Military Operations school to conduct a subject matter expert exchange on humanitarian civic assistance best practices during Exercise Balikatan 24 at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines, April 29, 2024. During the exchange, attendees discussed the AFP’s and U.S. military’s civil affairs missions and lessons learned from past events through training exercises and real-world scenarios.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher Bridger, the deputy commander for the Combined Joint Civil-Military Task Force, 1st Civil Affairs Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, opened the exchange with a brief overview of the history of civil military affairs and the breakdown of events coordinated by the Humanitarian Civic Assistance team during BK 24. Bridger also stressed the importance of CMO practitioners’ role in monitoring and reporting civilian infrastructure issues to commanders.

“That’s what CMO is all about – planning ways that we can conduct operations in the civilian community to mitigate concerns and support our operational forces,” Bridger said.

Other topics shared and discussed during the event included implementing Information Related Capabilities and ways that CMO practitioners can influence the operational environment.

U.S. Army Maj. Nicholas Dahl, the J-9 for 1st CAG, spoke to attendees about one of the most significant issues faced by the local communities surrounding the capital city of Manila: food insecurities and crop failures due to the lasting effects of seasonal typhoons.

“If there was a storm or typhoon, or military action placed upon the community that prevented ships from delivering food, we as civil affairs can do our part to help improve sustainability in the community if they’re not able to have access to it,” Dahl said.

In response to the damage left upon the community in a recent storm, Dahl led a team of agricultural specialists to observe a local community’s farming capabilities, use of fertilizers and irrigation, and in turn, provided input on what would be the best course of action moving forward; Military civil affairs provides a conduit between Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid and the surrounding community that can provide infrastructure or engineering projects such building wells at no cost to the civilians. These issues, specifically surrounding agricultural integrity, can be brought back and researched by U.S. universities to continue building the communication bond between nations.

Through discussions amongst students and presenters, having shared goals was the catalyst for nurturing the partnership going forward, and hopefully incorporating more civil affairs activities in the upcoming Balikatans.

“It was a great opportunity to learn from one another, share our best practices and discuss solutions to issues that we know that we both struggle through,” Dahl said.

Philippine Army Maj. Ferdinand Paolo Quiocho, the commandant of the AFP CMO school, coordinated through the J-7 for two months in order to coordinate the event.

“We take it as a positive mission to share and exchange knowledge in order to hit our targets,” Quiocho said. “I think it’s beneficial to understand how we are alike in aspects; Even though we don’t have a lot of joint training on a regular basis, we operate pretty similarly and how they accomplish similar tasks with different perspectives and through a different lens; how civil affairs can be best employed for real life situations.”

As a testament to the continuing partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines, the day concluded with exchanging of gifts and fellowship between students and service members. Quiocho lauded the dedication and passion that the civil affairs team brought to the students, and spoke of the natural and enduring friendship between nations as a byproduct of many exchanges to come.

“First and foremost, knowledge transfer is very important; the sharing of best practices is paramount to successful military operations within cooperation with our allies in the United States. I’m really looking forward to more activities like this in the future and realize that there will be shared exercises between our nations in terms of civil military operations based on CMO planning,” said Philippine Army Maj. Ferdinand Paolo Quiocho.

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