By Priam Nepomuceno

Participating soldiers alight the US Marines Super Stallion helicopter during the air assault operations which is part of the ongoing “Balikatan” Exercise held at the Paredes Air Station, Barangay 32 Sapat, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte on April 23, 2023. (Photo courtesy of PA) 

MANILA – Filipino, American and Australian troops on Sunday (April 23) conducted air assault exercises in Ilocos Norte province as part of the ongoing “Balikatan” exercises.

“Philippine Army (PA) soldiers and their counterparts from the US Army, US Marines Corps, and the Australian Defence Force conducted air assault operations as part of the ongoing Exercise ‘Balikatan‘ at the Paredes Air Station, Barangay 32 Sapat, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte on April 23, 2023,” said Army spokesperson, Col. Xerxes Trinidad, in a statement Monday afternoon.

He said 81 troops from the 99th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army together with the US Army and Royal Australian Army soldiers conducted air assault exercises at the airfield.

“Participating troops also conducted defensive operations in the area during the exercise,” Trinidad said. “Balikatan” is an annual exercise between Philippine and US militaries designed to strengthen interoperability, enhance capabilities, and deepen trust and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences.

Around 17,600 Filipino and American soldiers are participating in this year’s Balikatan — the largest iteration of the exercise to date.

Around 111 personnel contingent from the Australian Defense Force are also part of the military exercises.

Earlier, PA and US Army Pacific (USARPAC) troops conducted an air assault planning exercise which is part of the ongoing Balikatan at the Aviation Regiment Airstrip in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province on April 21.

Around 81 personnel from the PA’s 99th Infantry Battalion and their USARPAC counterparts conducted hot and cold load training aboard UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopters as part of the exercise.

“Cold load training allows soldiers to load and unload the helicopter while it is not in operation. In contrast to cold load, hot load training allows the troops to load and unload a fully functioning UH-60 ‘Black Hawk’ with full combat gear,” Trinidad said. (PNA)