Over 1800 troops from PH, US, 3 other nations to gather in Manila for 'KAMANDAG' exercise

KAMANDAG Philippine Marine Corps.jpg
Amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) of the Philippine Marine Corps, US Marine Corps, and Japan Ground Self Defense Force land on the beaches of Marine Base Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite on Oct. 12, 2019 for the KAMANDAG Exercise. (Photo by PMC)

More than 1,800 marines and other servicemen from the Philippines, United States and three other nations will train together in Manila for the seventh iteration of "KAMANDAG" exercise beginning Nov. 9.

Approximately 950 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 850 members of US Marines led by the Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia (MRF-SEA) will train alongside the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines for KAMANDAG 7. 

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (UK) Armed Forces will bring observers to the exercise. 

The exercise is scheduled from Nov. 9 to 20, and will be conducted at various training sites throughout Luzon, Batanes, Zamboanga, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan. 

The exercise seeks to test the multinational military readiness, partnership, and mutual capabilities of the participants. 

It will include humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) training particularly on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) operations; littoral search and rescue; coastal defense training; and amphibious operations.

There will also be medical subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and staff integration events along the eastern and northern coasts of the Philippines. 

"I am confident that KAMANDAG will not only strengthen our operational capabilities but will also foster a sense of trust and mutual understanding among our forces," said Brig. Gen. Jimmy Larida, exercise director of KAMANDAG 7.

Meanwhile, the participation of troops from Japan, South Korea and United Kingdom in this year's KAMANDAG exercise underscored the global importance of maritime security, and demonstrated their combined commitment to maintaining stability and peace across the Indo-Pacific region, according to Larida.

Col. Thomas Siverts, commanding officer of MRF-SEA, said the upcoming KAMANDAG exercise will be a "historic" one.

"One reason is our continued strengthening alliance reflected in the sheer scope of this year’s exercise. Secondly, MRF-SEA only participated in this exercise last year, and now we are privileged to be leading all U.S. Marine forces in this year’s exercise," Siverts said.

"Most importantly, we’re able to capitalize on relationships established a year ago. We’re leading and improving interoperability alongside the very same Philippine Marine Corps counterparts," he added.

KAMANDAG, which is derived from the Tagalog phrase "Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat" (Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea), is an annual exercise led by the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and US Marine Corps (USMC). 

The two nations have conducted KAMANDAG annually since 2016, and it is one of many exercises demonstrating the participating nations’ long-standing commitment to defense cooperation and regional security.