AFP holds land-sea-air inter-operability drills amid pandemic

Published November 23, 2020, 4:20 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Strict health protocols are expected to be implemented as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially opened the AFP Joint Exercise (AJEX) “DAGIT-PA” in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday with thousands of participating soldiers braving the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic to hone their skills.

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DAGIT-PA is an abbreviation of Filipino terms “dagat,” “langit,” and “lupa” which symbolizes the capability of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Air Force to operate on land, sea, and in the air.

Major General Edgard Arevalo, commander of the AFP Education, Training, and Doctrine Command (ETDC), and the exercise director for this year’s DAGIT-PA, assured that all face-to-face activities during the drills will be carried out with strict adherence to health protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19. 

“All participants were cleared of the virus by authorized medical professionals prior to the start of all activities,” he said.

He noted that all medical interventions and health protocols were already placed in order to prevent the spread of the virus during the conduct of the exercises. 

“Medical services will also be provided to all personnel of the different component forces. Those who will manifest COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately pulled-out from the exercise to be evacuated to the nearest military treatment facility for evaluation,” he said.

The AJEX DAGIT-PA is a unilateral exercise that aims to further enhance the joint force inter-operability and cohesiveness of all AFP units across defense mission areas.

“The AFP-wide or AFP-only exercise integrates the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army and Special Operations Forces to level up our operational effectiveness in sea, air, and land,” Arevalo said.

The opening ceremony was virtually attended by AFP Deputy Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Erick Kagaoan, who served as a keynote speaker, with key officers and personnel participating on-site.

This year’s training will be held from November 23 to December 4 in the areas within the jursidiction of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), and at the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. 

Arevalo said this year’s AFP-wide drill seeks to “address current defense and security issues, and harness the capabilities of the major services in a joint setting.”

More than 1,100 active and reserve soldiers will participate in various drills that will focus on territorial defense; internal security operations; humanitarian assistance and disaster response; chemical, Bbiological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) operations, and cyber defense operations.

Among the major exercises expected are the amphibious operations and island defense exercises in San Antonio, Zambales; combined arms live fire exercises in Capas, Tarlac; cyber defense exercises in Camp Aguinaldo; and staff exercises at the NOLCOM headquarters in Camp Aquino, Tarlac City.

According to Arevalo, the AFP’s three major service units will be utilizing an array of assets, including the newly procured vehicles and equipment, to familiarize themselves on how to use it.

He said the Philippine Army will be using its armored vehicles and combat engineering equipment. Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy will deploy BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) vessel, several patrol ships, landing docks, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft. 

Further, the Philippine Air Forces’ FA-50 aircraft and the Philippine Marines’ Amphibious Assault Vehicles will also be seeing avtion in the drills.

“Our objective is to enhance personnel capacity and capabilities of the joint forces that will enable them to be readily deployable in contingencies concerning maritime security, territorial defense, counter-terrorism, and natural disasters and calamities,” Arevalo said.