During Balikatan ‘09, every member of every unit has a
role to play. One of the most vital roles takes place on the flight
line. The Marines of Marine Helicopter Squadron Medium (HMM-262)
are responsible for service members participating in Balikatan
getting equipment, supplies and transportation to provinces that
can’t be reached by car.
“We provide a lifeline for the other forces to help them
achieve mission accomplishment,” said Gunnery Sgt. James
Allen, a quality assurance representative and squadron gunnery
sergeant for HMM-262. “We also make sure very important
personnel get to where they need to be.” While working here
in the Philippines, the Marines have gotten to interact with the
airmen of the Philippine Air Force, Armed Forces of the
“The AFP airmen are very relaxed but they never fail to
get the job done,” said Cpl. Ericson Montajez, a flight line
mechanic with HMM-262. “They’re really friendly and
easy to work with.” During breaks in their workday, the
Filipino and U.S. troops continue their friendly relationship off
the flight line. They enjoyed meals together as well as a few
competitive games of basketball, Allen said.
“Our senior officers and enlisted service members often
sit down with some of their senior members for meals and we just
talk and relate,” he said. He added that their moments
together taught him things beyond Balikatan.
“One thing I’ll take from working with the AFP is
their appreciation for the simple things in life,” he said.
“They don’t take what they have for granted and see so
much in things that can seem so small to other people.” The
Marines not only bonded with their Filipino comrades, but also
strengthened their own unit’s cohesion.
“I got closer to the guys here than I would’ve back
in the rear,” said Private First Class Michael Cassidy, an
air framers mechanic with the unit.
In their spare time the unit continues basic Marine Corps
training through Marine Corps Martial Arts courses, said Sgt.
Earnest Chandler, an aviation supply specialist with the unit. Some
of them were even awarded their brown belts. With each day, their
unity grows stronger.
“What can we say, we’re just a well-oiled
machine,” Allen said.
One of the unit’s highlights while in the Philippines was
when they organized a search and rescue mission for high-ranking
AFP officials that went down in a helicopter near Bagao.
“We sent two helicopters to search for the helicopter and
some of our troops were personally thanked by the Philippines
president,” said Allen.
Overall, HMM-262 has proven to be an important piece to the
bilateral humanitarian Balikatan ‘09 and made their visit a
long-lasting memory in the process.
Balikatan ’09 is a bilateral humanitarian assistance and
training activity that promotes unity and readiness between the
Republic of the Philippines and the United States. In the Bicol
region, Philippine and U.S. military forces are constructing two
wells and repairing two schools and two roads as part of Balikatan
‘09. They will also conduct free medical, dental, and
veterinary clinics in the Bicol region. Efforts like this help
ensure humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts are
efficient and effective. Balikatan is a Tagalog word that means
“shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the philosophy
and intent behind the mission. [ANN Salutes Lance Cpl. Antwain J.
Graham, Marine Forces Pacific]