Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Essex ARG, 31st MEU arrival provides Filipino-American service members a grand opportunity

By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

U.S. Sailors of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived to Subic Bay Freeport Oct. 17 for participation in bilateral exercises Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) FY 2007, for many of the service members on board, the arrival not only provides an opportunity to train with an allied nation but for some it was a return home.

Seaman James Nanca, who serves on the USS Essex (LHD 2), received an unexpected surprise when his grandparents and uncle, who traveled eight hours overnight from Ilocos Norte, were at the pier to welcome him home.

According to Nanca, who participated in the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief mission in Southern Leyte in February, said this was the first time that he seen them in seven years.

"I can't tell you how happy I am to visit my family," said Nanca smiling. "This is a big deal to me because the Philippines is my home country and I love this place."

Lance Cpl. Stevenson Jao, an avionics technician attached to the MEU, was excited to visit his home country again for the first time in three years.

"I feel so proud and I'm so excited to train here for the first time," said Jao, a native of Manila. "I feel I speak on behalf of all Filipino natives with the MEU/ARG team that it's a pleasure to be back in our native country and to train with our Filipino counterparts. I'm positive it will be a great learning experience for all of us."

According to Navy Capt. Anthony J. Pachuta, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11 and Col. John L. Mayer, the MEU commanding officer, they are going to allow their Filipino-American sailors and Marines the opportunity to visit with their families. "This is the right thing to do," said Pachuta.

During the next two weeks approximately 7,000 U.S. and Philippine military service members will participate in a variety of training exercises to include jungle environment survival training, martial arts, live-fire drills, close air support, civil-military operations, and community outreach efforts near their training areas in Luzon and Palawan.

The purpose of these exercises is to conduct bilateral training between the Philippine and U.S. military to maintain readiness and sustain the long-term security assistance relationship shared between the Philippines and the United States.


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