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US and Filipino forces end war drills that tested their endurance in brutal heat and shifty weather

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Hundreds of American and Filipino troops concluded Monday a new combat exercise in the northern Philippines that tested their endurance in more than a week of brutal heat and volatile weather and braced them to respond to any threat in tropical jungles and on scattered islands, two U.S. and Philippine generals said.

The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China, including in any possible confrontation over Taiwan and other Asian flash points. The move has dovetailed with Philippine efforts to shore up its territorial defenses amid escalating disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The large-scale battle drills, which have been held in Hawaii in recent years under the U.S. Army’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, have been introduced in the Philippines this year. There is also a version in Alaska. The exercises allow the U.S. Army, its allies and friendly forces to train in extreme conditions “where they are most likely to operate from archipelagos, jungles and heat in the tropics to high-altitude and extreme cold in the Arctic,” said Maj. Adan Cazares, a public affairs officer of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

The June 1-10 warfighting exercise began with an air assault on mock enemy forces to allow the deployment of U.S. and Filipino soldiers who secured an area, which served as a staging ground before a major offensive. When their communication lines for supplies were threatened, top commanders decided to shift to a defensive assault and repelled the enemy attempt and successfully launched the offensive.

Key aspects of the mock battle, including the planning, deployments, logistical preparations and contingency readiness, were reviewed by military assessors for combat efficiency.

The combat exercises, Cazares said, were integrated in annual U.S.-Philippine army joint exercises called Salaknib for the first time this year. About 1,500 U.S. and Filipino soldiers participated in the new battle drills staged in a hinterland in Fort Magsaysay, a sprawling Philippine army camp in an agricultural region known for its scorching weather. The