Wednesday, 04 July 2012 12:42
Former President Fidel V. Ramos has cited the role of the Special Forces Regiment of the Philippine Army not only for their proficiency in combat against insurgents and terrorists groups but also in rebuilding communities with projects in conflict areas to win the hearts and minds of the people.
Ramos, the first commander of the then newly-formed elite unit way back in 1962, was the guest of honor and speaker during the 50th founding anniversary of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija last week.
He recalled that the first Special Forces he commanded were composed of 117 officers and men of the airborne company.
Five decades later, the Army’s Special Forces Company has become a regiment ready to be deployed at any moment’s notice where there is conflict in any area of the country.
“Like every old soldier, I take pride in having accumulated so much experience and seen so many amazing sights. I have known enough of the climate of war, its danger, exertion, uncertainty, and chance,” Ramos said.
“And I tell you -- solemnly -- that it is my claim of comradeship with you of the Philippine Special Forces of which I am most proud,” he added.
Ramos, a retired four-star general and former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and defense secretary before being elected as the 12th President of the Philippines in 1992, said that “membership in the Special Forces is the key experience of my formative years as a soldier.”
“Soldiering was hard, tiring -- and always challenging. But my years in the Special Forces were a period in my life that I would not exchange for anything in the world. For, once you have stood at the open door of an airplane flying at 1,500 feet, and gathered enough courage to jump into thin air, with only an old World War II parachute holding you aloft while being dragged down by 50 pounds of equipment, supplies, and extras for needy civilians -- then everything else becomes relatively easy to do,” Ramos said as he recalled his almost 40 years as a soldier.
Ramos gave full credit to former President Ramon Magsaysay, who pioneered the concept of “all-out-force” on one hand, and “all-out-friendship” on the other, as the Philippine State’s response to the then rural insurgency of the Hukbalahap guerrillas in Central Luzon.
He said the Huk insurgency broke out in 1950, and it was soon evident that the military’s response -- the application of convention forces -- was largely ineffective against the Huk mobile guerrilla units and their local auxiliaries.
Ramos said President Magsaysay reconfigured the Philippine State’s counter-insurgency strategy and ordered the formation of compact, hard-hitting Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs) and core units of small-unit action teams -- Scout Rangers -- highly skilled in missions characterized by stealth, infiltration, and close-quarter jungle combat.
The Scout Rangers lived among the people; working closely with local populations to pinpoint the guerrilla hideouts and operating areas before hunting them down.
Through long-range reconnaissance patrols and first-strike operations, Magsaysay’s scout ranges decimated the Huk leadership -- and broke the back of the Huk rebellion, Ramos said.
“In our time, the ‘Global War on Terror’ has made war an all but permanent and inescapable part of life in the twenty-first century,” Ramos said.
“Nowadays, conflict’s immediate causes come more and more from ethnic and religious enmities; political and economic instabilities, and continuing ideological challenges to emerging democracies,” he said.
Ramos said that “the new age of war has acquired a different character from its predecessor -- the Second World War. It is typically limited, rather than total, war. It is conflict of low intensity, fought by small units; and terrorism to compel political change is its key strategy.”
Ramos said that as an elite unit, the performance of the Special Forces “will decide not just the outcome of face-to-face engagements but also the end-result of entire military and social campaigns.”
At the same time, Ramos said in the war on terror, he recognized the small units of the American military who are “helping our special forces put down the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in Mindanao and Sulu -- by providing our soldier not with combat support but with logistics, communications, and electronic intelligence.”
“As you know better than I do, the concept of community-and nation-building has been added to the counterinsurgency skills of the Special Forces soldier,” Ramos said, adding that “your units know not only to fight. You also know how to organize communities to build their own schools, farm-to-market roads, artesian wells, community centers. And individually as well as units, you have proficiency in health care and in basic medical skills.”
He also said that the Army’s Special Forces have served abroad -- in South Vietnam, Iraq and East Timor with honor and professionalism.
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