Any old piece of colorful cloth can be attached to a piece of bamboo to make it a banner and these lined the streets making a clear contrast with the trash and filth of the beach covered by bamboo huts on stilts. This scene was enhanced by young children on the side of the road in their white and green school uniforms waving handmade U.S. and Filipino flags and practicing their English greetings. The atmosphere seemed charged with excitement as the final touches were added to the preparations for several high level visitors.
Cool mornings are uncommon treats on tropical islands; one such made our chaotic morning bearable, but just as assuredly as the sun rises, this day baked too. It was under this oppressive sun that several dozen vehicles traveled over a recently smoothed but extremely dusty road to the town of Bato Bato. This town was the focal point of several civil projects which constituted most of Balikatan 2007 and was chosen as the site to celebrate the official closing to an exercise which would continue for a couple more weeks. Dignitaries ranging from local government officials to U.S. and Filipino Generals to the U.S. Ambassador all flocked to this humble town.
My job was to remain behind the scenes at a remote location and maintain reliable communications, relay messages if needed, and establish a command and control center in the event of an emergency. My job was easy; the festivities were well planned and rehearsed and events progressed accordingly leaving little to do except monitor them while they advanced from one stage to the next.
The media was present and the story has been carried by AP and Reuters. I have been told that members of our B Team (company command element) were on the front cover of Stars and Stripes. In typical fashion, they came out of their air-conditioned operations center for the glory shots. To be fair to them, they are getting tired of all the VIP visits that have been here recently; there have been jokes about putting up “Do not feed the animals” signs.