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NEWS | April 26, 2024

15th MEU Marines Arrive for Balikatan Embarked on USS Somerset, USS Harpers Ferry

By 1st Lt. Robert Nanna, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines and Sailors assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked on the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), consolidated in the province of Palawan to participate in Exercise Balikatan 2024 on April 22.

Over 1,000 Marines and Sailors embarked on the Somerset and Harpers Ferry integrated for the first time on their routinely scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific region for the exercise. Training alongside the Philippine Marine Corps, the 15th MEU’s participation in Balikatan helps maintain a high level of military readiness to enhance bilateral response capabilities in the Philippines and improve mutual defense capabilities.

“Exercise Balikatan is one of the most important exercises in the Pacific, and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is proud to participate, shoulder-to-shoulder, with our fellow Philippine Marines. The training and integration among our allies and partners here is an opportunity to continuously test our capabilities with realistic training and ensure we are ready, together, to respond to crisis or contingency,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Sean Dynan, commanding officer of the 15th MEU.

The 15th MEU will participate in each of the four combined joint all-domain operations events during this year’s exercise, highlighting the combined capabilities of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and the Philippine Marine Corps’ 3rd Marine Brigade. Their training activities will include securing key maritime terrain to support territorial defense, conducting simulated long range, precision strike fires, and sensing and shooting surface threats with missile defense systems.

Somerset, Harpers Ferry, and embarked elements of the 15th MEU are under the command and control of Combined Task Force 76/3, employed by U.S. 7th Fleet to operate with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.

"Balikatan" is a Tagalog phrase that means "shoulder-to-shoulder.” The goal of the bilateral military cooperation is to build the capacity to respond to crisis or conflict, working “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, enhancing mutual defense capability.

Please direct all Balikatan 2024 related questions to Capt. Josephine Rios at Josephine.rios.1@us.af.mil.