The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) completed Exercise Balikatan 2023 (BK23), April 28 with a closing ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines.

U.S. and Philippine relationships are based on strong historical and cultural linkages and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights. Balikatan presented an opportunity for personnel from the AFP and the Makin Island ARG comprised of USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), to work together to address challenges related to the Mutual Defense Treaty, counter-terrorism threats, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), amphibious transport docks USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), expeditionary mobile base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), and Philippine navy ships BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS 15), and BRP Tarlac (FF 601) transit the South China Sea for Balikatan 23, April 19, 2023. Balikatan is an annual exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of Makin Island, Anchorage, and John P. Murtha, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serve as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Martinez)

The 1951 U.S. Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty provides a strong foundation for the U.S. and Philippine’s present-day partnership. This alliance facilitates an open, interconnected, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific region.

“BK23 interactions enabled the opportunity to increase our ability to work shoulder-to-shoulder through bilateral training, supporting local populations, and improving collective capabilities and interoperability.” said Capt. Doug Langenberg, commanding officer of John P Murtha. “Together we are devoted to regional peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.”

Makin Island participated in Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore, in which heavy supplies and equipment were loaded onto landing craft, air cushions and transported to the beach. A temporary bilateral, multifunctioning team was established on shore to transfer fuel to and from ships, stage and operate heavy equipment, and conduct vehicle convoys. The ability to execute amphibious offload operations ensures the AFP and U.S. military are ready to respond to crisis and contingencies at short notice.

Anchorage’s Sailors, and Marines assigned to 1st Reconnaissance, 13th MEU, conducted a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) exercise on expeditionary mobile base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5). VBSS provides a variety of scenario injects that require situational analysis, communication, and bilateral decision making. This exercise provided unparalleled opportunities to demonstrate the strength and readiness of the U.S.- Philippine security alliance.

The Makin Island ARG participated in a group sail alongside Miguel Keith, and Philippine navy ships BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS 15), and BRP Tarlac (FF 601) in the South China Sea. This event enhances our forces’ communication, techniques and procedures across a wide range of operations while assuring a high degree of interoperability.

Makin Island and AFP conducted a sink exercise which consisted of AFP staging a floating target with the goal of capsizing it. Makin Island launched their 6 F-35B Lightning IIs—fifth generation strike fighters assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 13th MEU—and employed 4 GPS guided munitions onto the target, successfully capsizing it.

For the final phase of Balikatan 23, Makin Island conducted a simulated amphibious raid at Brooke’s Point, offloading U.S. Marines to conduct live fire training, and bilateral long-range fires in a coastal defense training scenario. Field training exercises create valuable training opportunities for both partners to develop proficiency in coastal defense concepts, as well as build camaraderie and respect among service members at every level.