Fort Magsaysay beefs up security for Balikatan war exercises

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija — Authorities have tightened security measures in this camp as hundreds of American and Filipino soldiers arrived here for the annual 32nd joint Balikatan war exercises.

Army Capt. Rozelle Ticar, spokesperson of the 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division based in this military camp said that they are ready to receive American soldiers for the war exercises amid security concerns with measures have already been laid out inside the camp as part of the routine.

“Everything is much under control and preventive measures were laid out,” Ticar said, adding that series of planning and coordination were conducted as per instruction of commanding general, Maj. Gen. Angelito De Leon.

Last year, four American soldiers lost their belongings to thieves who gained entry inside the camp.

Army Staff Sergeants Scotty Wilson and Dwayne Massey and Lieutenants Patrick Tierney and Thomas Dunne lost their belongings consisting of army boots, wallet containing USD2,000, undetermined amount of pesos and other personal belongings.

They were part of the 700-soldier contingent who plunged into the war exercises inside this military camp along with 900 Filipino soldiers.

A report said that unidentified suspects gained entry in the unlocked building by boring through a hole beneath a perimeter fence and carted away the belongings.

However, the said belongings were recovered.

“I am assuring that the said theft incident will not happen anymore. Our soldiers stepped up for all preventive measures for the activity,” he said.

This camp was one of five areas identified last March 18 by the US and Philippine governments that will be utilized by American troops under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which they signed in April 2014 as political tensions rose between the Philippines and China due to disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

Aside from Fort Magsaysay, the deal also allows rotating US military presence at the Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro and the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

Ticar said the main organizers of this year’s war games have been informed them of the calendar of activities for the four-day war games.

Last year, part of the exercises were a community outreach in nearby areas where Filipino and US troops performed medical and dental operations, haircuts, feeding program, circumcision and distribution of Bibles.

It also marked the first time three modern attack helicopters of the US forces showcased their air assault capabilities in the first known mock air assault inside the sprawling military reservation.

These involved Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters and black hawk aircraft.

Chinook helicopters are twin-engine, heavy-lift military aircraft used for troop movements, artillery placement and battlefield resupply because of its wide loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage and three external-cargo hooks.

The advanced, multi-mission helicopter contains a fully integrated digital cockpit management system and cargo-handling capabilities.

The said helicopters were also used in some other countries like the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Greece and Spain. PNA/