Photo Information

Philippine Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maria Christina Roxas, Chief of External Affairs Branch, Public Affairs Division, briefs her team’s plan to participants during the Information Warfighter Exercise, held before the commencement of Exercise Balikatan 24, at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines, April 4, 2024. IWX is a week-long matrix-style wargame that advances the combined information-related capabilities of the U.S. and Armed Forces of the Philippines. BK 24 is an annual exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Knowles)

Photo by Cpl. Brian Knowles

Information Warfighter Exercise Lays Groundwork for Upcoming Balikatan 24

8 Apr 2024 | Cpl. Brian Knowles I Marine Expeditionary Force

CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – Service members representing different branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Department of Defense converged at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, from April 1-5 for the first-ever Information Warfighter Exercise preceding Exercise Balikatan 24.

This collaborative exercise, developed by the Marine Corps Information Operations Center and Balikatan planners from the AFP and U.S., was a week-long matrix-style wargame. This iteration of IWX marked the first session hosted on a foreign base, the first executed as a bilateral exercise, and the first since the Marine Corps unveiled its new information operations publication as part of Force Design.

"In an increasingly complex information environment, we recognize the importance of advancing our combined information-related capabilities, further enabling all types of military operations," said Philippine Army Major Rhyan B. Batchar, the Chief of Information Operations Planning Branch, part of the AFP joint headquarters. "This exercise allowed us to approach Balikatan, for the first time, with a focus on the information advantage during military operations."

Beneath the golden Philippine sun, participants separated into two adversarial teams, each comprising a mix of AFP and U.S. service members. Standing over a map of the Philippines, these teams presented their IO plans and strategized to thwart their adversary’s actions. An impartial third-party team consisting of Philippine and U.S. interagency members adjudicated their decisions, drawing out the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches.

“Training in a bilateral exercise always presents unique challenges, whether doctrinal differences between U.S. services, Allies and partners, or even cultural differences,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gene Ramsey, Chief of Psychological Operations with 1st Multi Domain Task Force. “However, those challenges always come with a unique benefit, walking away with new ways to approach a problem set you can pass to your team.”

The information warfighters engaged in IWX, cognizant of their doctrinal differences, faced the task of overcoming biases regarding the most effective methods to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of their simulated adversaries. The exercise forced participants to think critically, challenged their perceptions, created common understandings, and ultimately yielded a more capable combined information operation force.

“I am very pleased with how much we learned from each other through this exercise,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Bruce Manuel, Lead IWX Planner for I Marine Expeditionary Force. “We have different doctrinal approaches towards achieving information advantages, but we were able to find ways to increase interoperability between our forces. We walked away with more operational synergy leading into Balikatan.”

At the end of the rigorous five-day exercise, information warfighters emerged with a renewed perspective as they resumed preparations for Balikatan, holding a clear vision: A more digitally interconnected world, exacerbated by rapidly evolving technologies, has changed operational environments and the character of warfare. To gain and maintain an information advantage across all domains, a combined force must continue to become more interconnected, shoulder-to-shoulder, Balikatan.

I Marine Expeditionary Force