USS Tortuga Successfully Completes Exercise Balikatan 2013

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) successfully completed the 29th iteration of the annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. Military exercise Balikatan 2013 (BK13) April 17.

Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

During the exercise, U.S. military members worked alongside their Philippine counterparts in a series of operations designed to assist in maintaining interoperability and the cooperative skills that are needed in a series of situations ranging from humanitarian assistance to casualty control.

“Bilateral exercises with the Republic of the Philippines, such as Balikatan, help ensure interoperability and operational readiness if called to respond to crises and contingencies,” said Cmdr. John Barnett, commanding officer, USS Tortuga. “As treaty allies, it’s very important that we work together in areas of common security interests.”

In addition to tactical exercises, Sailors and Marines provided services respective to their crafts to selected communities such as medical care, construction and repair of schools and other community infrastructure, and community relation projects with members of the community.

“Being able to share the human side of life is very healing for the Sailors who are always focused on the daily grind of mission readiness,” said Lt. Adrienne Townsend, chaplain, USS Tortuga. “At the same time, the impact of having the military come and positively interact with the locals has an impact on both communities for a lifetime.”

The exercises performed focused on training both U.S. and Philippine armed forces with the goal of providing assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that may occur.

“The exercises and drills that we have conducted during BK13 will ensure that our interoperability will be as strong as it has always been,” said Cmdr. Doug Patterson, executive officer, USS Tortuga. “We look forward to working alongside our Philippine friends again next year.”

Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

Naval Today Staff, April 23, 2013