AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo (File photo)

MANILA – Filipino and American troops will be conducting a “simulated close air support” (SIMCAS) exercise at the Col. Ernesto Ravina Air Base (CERAB), Capas, Tarlac on April 20.

In a message to reporters Thursday, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, and Balikatan 2021 exercise director said the exercise will “simulate the need to employ air capability while observing the procedures involved during (a) call for fire.”

CERAB is formerly known as the Tarlac Military Testing Ground.

“The intent of every iteration of Balikatan is for both armed forces to train together on defense and security leveraging on the capability, experience, and strength of their friendship,” Arevalo said.

He added that Balikatan is done annually, except in 2020, to ensure interoperability in terms of command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance, (C4ISR), and Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs).

The 36th Balikatan Exercise kicked off April 12 and will conclude on April 23. It is an annual military training event that highlights the Philippines and United States militaries’ continued commitment to train and share information to improve their ability to coordinate a multilateral response to a crisis.

Meanwhile, medical experts from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) concluded the three-day virtual Global Health Engagement on Wednesday.

The knowledge exchange and key leader engagement which started on April 12 was held virtually for the first time due to conditions brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“The global pandemic may have limited some aspects of the Balikatan Exercise but it will never dampen the spirit of friendship, partnership, and shared aspirations of both Philippines and United States armed forces,” Arevalo said in a statement Thursday.

PAF chief surgeon Col. Maria Socorro Posadas facilitated the discussion of topics in aviation medicine.

Among the topics discussed are the Role of AFP in Pandemic Management; Philippines’ Covid-19 Vaccination Plan; and Aerospace Medicine Guidelines, Aeromedical Evacuation Medical Equipment and Facility Modification, and Mass Casualty Response during the pandemic.

“Engagement such as this had been carried out regularly between the Office of the Chief Surgeon Air Force and PACAF to produce meaningful exchanges of medical knowledge and practices in the field of Aerospace Medicine. In this Balikatan 2021 virtual teleconference, both parties were able to showcase their experience and expertise in their respective fields as well as to highlight the improvements and innovations they instituted to fulfill their mission through this pandemic,” Posadas said.

Meanwhile, PACAF command surgeon, Col. Rudy Cachuela and international health specialist Lt. Col. Cherielynne Gabriel joined the virtual activity from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Gabriel said the main objective of the exchange is to provide an overview of the present pandemic situation from surveillance, on-scene response, testing, and monitoring to patient treatment and modifications to patient movement.

“It aims to share best practices, enhance knowledge of participants, and maintain relationships until we can practice medical interoperability in-person again when global health conditions improve,” she said. (PNA)