Combined Philippine-U.S. and Philippine-Australian exercise Sama Sama-Lumbas 2022 concluded Oct. 18 following eight days of in-person and at-sea engagements with military personnel from the Philippines, United States, Australia, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom in Cebu City, Philippines and the Sulu Sea.

This year marks the first time Sama Sama, a Philippine Navy (PN) and U.S. Navy (USN) exercise, and Lumbas, a PN and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) exercise, were planned and executed together.

The ships that met and trained together at sea included PN frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF 150), destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69), destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) and oiler HMAS Stalwart (A 304), destroyer JS Kirisame (DD 104), and OPV HMS Spey (P 234).

“Sama-Sama Lumbas 2022 is the first regional exercise of this kind and scale that Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 has had the privilege to attend in person in over two years,” said Capt. Tim LaBenz, commodore, DESRON 7. “Our gracious Philippine Navy hosts executed an impressive and professional exercise, allowing the navies of six nations to work together and learn from each other directly over this past week.”

At-sea events included division tactics, communication exercises, deck landing qualifications, replenishment-at-sea (RAS) and approach, and search and rescue. A notable event at sea was Jose Rizal’s successful RAS with Stalwart, which demonstrated skills learned by the crews during previous PN-RAN qualification training. A total of 30,000 liters of fuel were successfully transferred from Stalwart to Jose Rizal during this bilateral event.

In another display of interoperability, two U.S. Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked a JMSDF US-2 Seaplane and approached the exercise area communicating with the ships on location. Following the US-2 at-sea landing, a JMSDF search and rescue (SAR) team and the Marines exited the seaplane and conducted small boat SAR operations in a JMSDF rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

“A lot of planning and innovation goes into putting U.S. Marines onto a JMSDF aircraft and integrating forces with ships at sea during an exercise led by navies from the Philippines, U.S. and Australia,” said LaBenz. “This is true multilateral training that builds capability and readiness for real world events and helps to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Sama Sama-Lumbas is designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability. The shore phase of the exercise included subject matter expert exchanges on maritime domain awareness and intelligence, maritime aviation, band, surface warfare missile engagement, replenishments-at-sea, medical, explosive ordnance disposal, visit, board, search and seizure, legal, and underwater construction operation of participating navies.

Additional U.S. assets and representatives participating in Sama Sama-Lumbas included a P-8 Poseidon, staff from Commander Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 75, CTF 76, DESRON 7, and U.S. 7th Fleet.

Milius is assigned to CTF 71/DESRON 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.

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 Expeditionary Strike Group 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.