Teak Piston 2016 brings the 353rd SOG to the Philippines

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
A diverse cross-section of personnel from the 353rd Special Operations Group participated in bilateral exchanges with the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base from Sept. 15-30.

Teak Piston is a joint-combined exchange training (JCET) conducted with several units from the Philippine Air Force to include the 220th Air Wing, 222nd Airlift Squadron, 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, 505th Search and Rescue Group, 560th Air Wing, 210th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 710th Special Operations Wing and the 600th Air Wing.

“Our longstanding partnership with the Philippine Air Force is strengthened during engagement opportunities like Teak Piston,” said Maj. Mark Schmidt, Teak Piston mission commander. “Teak Piston was a success because we took the time to listen to the host nation and adapt our training to meet their needs. I’ve been so impressed with the professionalism of our partners and members of the 353rd SOG.”

During the two week JCET, the 353rd SOG conducted over 200 hours of classroom academic and hands-on training covering 30 topics including jungle survival, aircraft and base security, and Low Cost Low Altitude (LCLA) airdrop procedures.

“In addition to the exchanges with Special Tactics Airmen and Air Commandos, we decided to expand the scope for engagements and include unit-to-unit training with other sections from the 353rd SOG,” said Schmidt. “Aircraft maintainers, logistics personnel, SERE specialists and the Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element hosted training and community relations events throughout the exercise.”

Though traditionally hosted at Clark Air Base, the main body of the JCET moved to Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, Philippines in order to include more units from the Philippine Air Force.

“Having personnel in both Clark and Cebu allowed us to have more meaningful engagements,” said Schmidt. “Being able to work with more units in a training environment makes a huge difference when a real-world situation hits.”

Training exercises such as JCETs allow the 353rd SOG to develop and strengthen relationships with the host nations in the Pacific.

“My expectations are always high when working with the Philippine Air Force,” said Capt. Blaze Dunn, 320th Special Tactics Squadron lead. “We foster friendships that exceed our time here and learn how to effectively work together for future contingencies.”