U.S. Army troops came away from a recent joint training exercise impressed by how quietly their Filipino counterparts managed to move through triple canopy jungle terrain, sometimes using birdcalls to communicate, commanders said at a briefing Wednesday.
In terms of cooperation and improved readiness, "this was a high payoff operation," Army Col. Leo Wyszynski, commander of the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team -- the "Ghost Brigade," said of the latest iteration of the service's "Pacific Pathways" program of joint exercises in the region.
"We got to train with our partners and other services in an operational environment that we're not familiar with, in jungle terrain," he said of the brigade out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Some of the lessons learned included the Filipino infantry's clandestine and night movement techniques, Wyszynski said at a Pentagon roundtable with reporters on the BCT's recently concluded four-month deployment to Thailand, the Philippines and the island nation of Palau.
"One thing notable was how quietly they moved in the jungle environment, which was an eye-opener to some of our soldiers," he said.
His troops were able to pick up on that by emulating the Filipinos in "how to use the jungle, use the element of surprise" with the objective of "putting our soldiers in a position of advantage -- quietly," Wyszynski said.
He noticed that the Filipinos tended to use more hand and arm signals, and what he called the "mimicking of birds," to avoid radio and other communications that might give away their positions.
Sgt. 1st Class James Howard, a senior non-commissioned officer with the BCT, likened the Filipino infantry's approach to tactical problems to a Swiss Army knife, in that they will adapt to situations with whatever tools may be available. "They're very resourceful in the way they fight, the way they communicate," he said.
The lessons learned in the exercises went both ways, Howard said. The Filipino soldiers told him: "I didn't realize the Stryker was so quiet," and "I didn't realize you guys could mass forces so quickly," he said.
"We tried to share and learn mutually" during the deployment, Lt. Col. Douglas Graham, commander of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, said.
"What we were able to give back" to the Filipinos was instruction on combined-arms maneuver, he said.
The U.S. troops were also able to give their counterparts field training on machine guns.
"Most of their formations had never trained significantly on machine guns," Graham said.
The Americans also learned on their own more about "the logistics involved in deploying to an austere environment. That was a challenge," Wyszynski said.
The Pacific Pathways program was begun in 2014 at U.S. Army Pacific Command by now-retired Gen. Vincent Brooks and was conceived as a continuing series of "bilateral and multilateral exercises and engagement with foreign militaries in the region."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.