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FEB. 21, 2008 — FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Republic of the Philippines — Philippine Army Tech Sergeant Jaime Donato coaches Lieutenant Colonel Mark Arellano on how to recover after slipping off a rope bridge during Balikatan 2008. Donato is an instructor at the Special Forces School in Fort Magsaysay and Arellano is the commander of 2nd Battalion, 200th Infantry. [Official USMC photo by LCpl Kevin M. Knallay]

On October 30, 2009, the 515th Coast Artillery's legacy unit, the 515th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (NMNG), while deployed in Iraq, honored their heritage with the dedication of Bataan Memorial Park in Mosul, Iraq. STORY

New Mexico National Guard Returns to Philippines

 

New Mexico's 2nd Battalion, 200th Infantry, commanded by LtCOL Marc Arellano, participated in the Balikatan 2008 Training Exercise February 18 thru March 3, 2008. Balikatan is an annual Republic of the Philippines and United States humanitarian assistance and training activity. Service members carry out community assistance projects and participate in training to improve maritime security and respond jointly in the event of natural disasters or other crises. It was the first time a New Mexico National Guard unit had returned to the Republic Philippines since World War II.

 

Prior to deploying, Colonel Arellano stated, “It's a historical event. We feel proud and honored to be able to represent the New Mexico National Guard and our Bataan veterans by attending this training exercise. We look forward to re-establishing our ties with the Philippine people.” [1]

 

Major Fernando Los Banes, Public Information Officer for the Philippine Army's Seventh Infantry Division, explained that American and Filipino troops involved in the exercises focused on community service.

 

“They have repaired/built schools, rendered dental and medical missions and donated school and athletic supplies to the youth in Nueva Ecija.” [2]

 

The exercise also included elements of the Guam National Guard.

 

Of the jungle survival training, a well known portion of the exercise, 2nd Battalion's Private Lorenzo Castillo said, “Honestly it was kind of scary, but it's a challenge and I am glad I did it.” [3]

 

New Mexicans visited Mount Samat where US and Filipino soldiers faced Homma's 14th Army, and under whose shadow, thousands became prisoners of war — some of those men being relatives of the soldiers visiting the historic monument.

 

At a wreath laying ceremony on February 29 at the Capas National Shrine, a memorial to the men who lost their lives at Camp O'Donnell following the Death March, Philippine Army Brigadier General Nestor Sadiarin said, “Today also finds its meaning with the homecoming of the New Mexico National Guard. Members of that unit are here with us this morning for the first time in 66 years . . . As the Republic of the Philippines exercise co-director of Balikatan 2008, I salute all of you on this special and historical celebration of bravery, chivalry and friendship between two allies who have withstood the test of time.” [4]

 

Retired Colonel Rafael Estrada Jr., Bataan survivor and Chairman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor Inc., before being overcome with emotion said, “I am simply overwhelmed — overwhelmed to enjoy that our friends from New Mexico are here representing our brothers in arms who, I suppose, cannot be here. I was told this Balikatan has . . . children of the survivors of the Bataan campaign, and I should like at this moment to say kindly, when you reach home, extend our warmest greetings to them — to kindly hold on and on until the good Lord gives his reward.” [5]

 

“It really choked me up to hear the colonel speak about (Bataan) because he was there,” said New Mexico National Guardsman Specialist Jacob Hinojos. [6]

 

Hinojos' uncle was the late Fausto Noce of Lordsburg, New Mexico — a soldier first in New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery Anti-aircraft Regiment, and after the December 8, 1941 bombing of Clark Field, reassigned to the new 515th Coast Artillery, that unit split from the ranks of the 200th.

 

The 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiments left an enduring legacy. Today, when a New Mexico National Guardsman calls, “Beyond the Standard”, the reply is “Bataan!”

1.

LtCOL Kenneth Nava, Public Affairs Officer, New Mexico National Guard.

2.

The Manila Times.

3.

Armed Forces of the Philippines.

4.

USMC Lance Corporal Noah S. Leffler.

5.

Ibid.

6.

Ibid.