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NEWS | June 2, 2024

ACDC: A Milestone in Philippine Coastal Defense

By 1st Lt. John Fischer, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Elements of I and III Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) concluded the latest iteration of the Archipelagic Coastal Defense Continuum (ACDC) bilateral training with units from across the Philippine Marine Corps, including the Philippine Coastal Defense Regiment on May 31, 2024. The training took place from the diverse landscapes of Paredes in the north to the mountainous jungles of Barira in the southern Philippines.

Since the battles of World War II, the U.S.-Philippine alliance has stood the test of time, reaffirming commitments through agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014. These agreements have facilitated the introduction of ACDC, a series of enduring bilateral training opportunities between the U.S. Military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The continuum supports the Philippine Marine Corps’ Archipelagic Coastal Defense Concept, announced in 2021 as part of the Philippine Marine Corps’ adoption of a new operating doctrine to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ ability to defend its homeland and ensure peace and stability within its waters in accordance with international law.

The continuum includes maritime domain awareness training events, subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), littoral zone reconnaissance activities (LZR), Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) defense training, integrated command and control of airspace through the Multifunctional Air Operations Center, and cultural and local community engagements to deepen U.S. ties with the Philippine people and celebrate our shared history. These events support the AFP’s ongoing modernization efforts and improve our ability to work together in any environment.

“I’m confident and very positive that this will enhance our interoperability,” said Brig. Gen. Romeo T. Racadio, exercise director for ACDC and Deputy Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps. Racadio elaborated, saying, “Given those other factors which we have enjoyed even before – our camaraderie and strong alliance – in terms of capacity and capability, this [ACDC] will definitely benefit us.”

This series of ACDC training events began following Exercise Balikatan 24, with I MEF (Forward), commanded by Col. Stuart Glenn, assuming command and control of all Marine Forces within the Philippines. The Philippine Marine Corps welcomed the U.S. Marines with the 13th MEU CE to Fort Bonifacio to begin this continuation of training and command integration. The 13th MEU coordinated and oversaw the training of various units, including the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in Luzon, Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 371, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Clark Air Base and Fort Bonifacio, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), I MEF Information Group, the 15th MEU in Palawan, and 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (V 1/7) in Mindanao, alongside their Philippine counterparts through daily meetings, working groups, and collaborative exchanges.

“ACDC is designed to be a bilateral exercise that allows the U.S. Marine Corps, specifically I MEF, and the Philippine Marine Corps to interoperate, as we build capabilities and capacity to defend the coast from both a Philippine and U.S. perspective,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Stuart Glenn, Commander of I MEF (Forward). “It’s person-to-person, unit-to-unit, and at all echelons here with the Philippine Marine Corps to work better together every day.”

Amidst the vibrant jungles of Mindanao, U.S. Marines with V 1/7 and Philippine Marines with the 1st Marine Brigade forged a new level of interoperability through refining infantry tactics, simulated close-quarters battle engagements, marksmanship training, and jungle and mountain warfare training. Philippine Marines passed down centuries of knowledge to U.S. Marines on how to survive and operate in the jungle environment. Between tactical training events, Marines shared traditional “Boodle Fights” with Philippine Marines, coming together for evenings of Filipino food, camaraderie, and friendship. Beyond these shared meals, Marines engaged with the local community by visiting places like Abubacar Elementary School to distribute school supplies, provide meals, and serve the Philippine people alongside the Philippine Marine Corps.

To the northwest, the 15th MEU brought the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry to the training, facilitating combined amphibious operations with the 3rd Marine Brigade. Together, they successfully translated reconnaissance, infantry, and light armored patrolling, and various SMEEs into a combined amphibious landing on Long Beach, Palawan, followed by a simulated Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain exercise in Puerto Princesa with Philippine and U.S. forces. Here, they shared valuable lessons for ship-to-shore operations and improved their combined ability to secure beachheads for future maritime and island defense operations. Also in Palawan, U.S. Marines with 1st ANGLICO engaged in small unmanned aerial reconnaissance system (sUAS) SMEEs with the PMC to reinforce their ability to monitor and survey Philippine coastal waters, improving early warning and detection of malign activities within Philippine territories.

“We really have to attend to the maritime domain requirements,” said Racadio. “To provide a holistic approach in terms of occupant defense of this island country. So, I can just say that the importance of ACDC right now is very timely, and very significantly relevant to the call of the times. So, I’m happy to note that we are conducting ACDC and we should continue this.”

Moving north to Fort Bonifacio and Manila, the 13th MEU CE strengthened the ability to execute combined operations by overseeing distributed Philippine and U.S. military activities alongside PMC headquarters personnel. This coordination furthered the procedural interoperability between commands and improved our combined ability to communicate, decide, and direct actions within the Philippines for a cohesive and synchronized approach to employing forces and capabilities. Through continuous intelligence, radio and communications systems SMEEs, and a senior enlisted symposium, the 13th MEU CE joined with their Philippine Marine counterparts to foster stronger relationships for increasingly dynamic military operations. Concurrently, U.S. Marines with MWSS-371, Philippine Marines, and Philippine National Police Force officers conducted EOD and CBRN SMEEs through collaborative classroom instruction and practical applications on the football fields of Fort Bonifacio.

“It [ACDC] allows us to bring Marines here, allows us to partner, shoulder-to-shoulder, as we like to say,” said Glenn. “The goal of the Philippines and the goal of the United States is a free and prosperous INDOPACOM region, and that’s what we’re here to support.”

Near the active runways of Clark Air Base in Luzon, U.S. Marines with MWSS-371 and Philippine Marines with the Combat Engineer Battalion utilized their constructive and destructive engineering capabilities in a simulated battlespace over challenging terrain. Classroom instruction and practical application of counter mobility, survivability, general engineering, and engineer reconnaissance enhanced the combined U.S.-Philippine ability to move on the battlespace, protect forces, and create friction or disorder for potential adversary forces in potential conflicts.

Running concurrently in Paredes, Subic Bay, and Naval Base Camilo Osias, U.S. Marines with the 3rd MLR and Philippine Marines with the 4th Marine Brigade and Battalion Landing Team 10 joined together for the Littoral Zone Reconnaissance Cobra exercise, which included continuous infantry, reconnaissance, cultural, and community engagement events. LZR Cobra is a bilateral command post-exercise between the U.S. and Philippine Marines aimed at utilizing sUAS capabilities to enhance interoperability, refine tactics, techniques, and procedures, and support combined and joint force maritime domain awareness.

Continuous training through exercises like Balikatan, Marine Aviation Support Activity, SAMA SAMA, Kamandag, and now ACDC, ensures that U.S. and Philippine forces work and operate more frequently and closely than ever before. This consistent training allows both forces to refine and sustain the progress made in previous iterations. With the Philippine government’s and people’s enduring permission and support, the U.S. Marine Corps aims to strengthen our longstanding alliance and partnership with our counterparts, advancing our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

​Racadio concluded his remarks, stating, “I am confident that this [ACDC] will bring us many opportunities, such that we will be winners, we will be able to do our thing and contribute to our shared goals in the Indo-Pacific region.”




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