We live fairly far up country, and rarely hear airplanes or helicopters, but in the past few days there has been several low flying planes or helicopters.

Since we are not that far from Fort Magsaysay, I looked it up and sure enough, the US has troops there, with the local Philippine Army teaching them “jungle survival”.

photo:Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay

That’s Tech Sargent Jaime Donato teaching the US soldier to get back on a rope.

They’ll learn all sorts of other things, such as how to catch and eat a cobra, eating local grubs and insects, finding water, and other “jungle survival” skills.

But the joint training is more than just jungle warfare: the troops will be bringing in supplies for schools, and setting up medical clinics in isolated areas.

Balikatan 2008 will focus on training both armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

I was here when the Tsunami hit, and the US Ships doing routine exercizes were diverted to Indonesia. People who insist that the US should be less warlike forget that a Naval presence does a lot more than cause trouble on shore leave: They keep down the pirates, rescue people, and can bring in supplies for emergencies, whether it be the landslides in the Philippines, the Tsunami in Indonesia, or against pirates off of Somalia.

Up here, things are quiet politically, but down south after a firefight between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Jolo left some civilians dead…the soldiers are being investigated, and the left started spreading unconfirmed rumors that US troops were involved in the botched raid.

To calm things down, the US Embassador flew down to Mindanao and talked with the main Muslim rebels, the MILF (who are in the midst of negotiation with the government about a truce), and they now have withdrawn their objections.

So this will probably be a good “war game” practice for both sides.

One note: The official reports mention that the New Mexico National Guard will be along, as well as the Army Guard from Guam.

I once lived in New Mexico and our church still had a small plaque in memorial for those who fought and died at Bataan and on the death march. That history is little noted elsewhere, but remembered by the families of those that served, whether they be Native American Indian, Mexican or Anglo in heritage.

So the desert dwellers of New Mexico are again in the area where their units fought and died. Hopefully they’ll take a side trip to Cabanatuan and lay a wreath at Camp O’Donnell

Not just for those of your unit who fought, but also the thousands of Filipinos who fought and died back then along side of America for their country’s freedom

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind CLinic and Fishmarket. Her husband is a veteran of World War II.

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