The real test of a man is how he rises back after a fall. We have seen the numerous victories that we had against the enemies in the past years and it seems that there is no turning back. Gaining the momentum, we continuously rampaged on enemy strongholds and dealt decisive strikes on their mobile forces. Then, in a sudden turn of events, we experienced getting clobbered by the enemy’s attacks. They have successfully overran an encampment manned by a small number of regular soldiers and paramilitary personnel. Fortunately, we lost no one in that incident. Avoiding a humiliating defeat, our personnel disengaged and survived to fight another day. It is noteworthy that our troops were able to inflict casualties on the enemy’s attacking forces in the same day of that attack on that isolated detachment.
As the deadline for ending the local communist insurgency problem is drawing near, we find ourselves in a dilemma on how to come up with the best plan to accomplish our assigned mission. Cognizant about our efforts to defeat them within the given time frame, the enemy has also doubled their drive to outsmart us. They have stepped up their harassments on our camps and less secured government or privately owned facilities. While we have gradually emaciated its forces, the CPP-NPA always wants to portray themselves as the force to reckon with. The enemy is able to carry out these atrocities with the active support of some people in the area. But interestingly, when we score victories against them and especially if they are bloodied, they resort to propaganda warfare to win their war by shaping public opinion.
Aside from the armed rebels that we are confronting, our units are also facing perennial problems caused by natural disasters which wreak havoc upon the people and their sources of livelihood. As a typhoon-prone area, Bicol is a natural highway for the raging typhoons which cause heavy flooding and destruction of various properties. Facing a bleak future during times that their homes and farmlands are wiped out by these calamities, people tend to be more receptive to the hollow rhetorics of the local communist insurgents. However, calamity like this can also serve our purposes. We can use this as our opportunity to show the people the genuine service due them. As part of our military operations other than war (MOOTWA) efforts, we can assist communities to rise up again and face these seemingly never-ending challenges in their lives. With our manpower and resources, we can help people get back to their normal lives by providing them with basic services. We have soldiers who can help them in disaster relief activities. Our heavy engineering equipment can help rebuild bridges and drain submerged areas. The list of heart-winning activities seems endless. It only takes imagination and determination to be of valuable service to the people.
Confronted by all these challenges, we need to review and go back to basics. In the forefront of our priorities is the ability of our unit leaders to provide the best leadership they can offer. Our various tasks can easily be carried out if we have good leaders who ensure the accomplishment of every assigned mission. It is also the responsibility of every leader to develop his subunit leaders down to the level of Fire Team Leaders. When we have unit leaders and soldiers who understand the given tasks, everything is possible. We need to continuously develop the capabilities of our soldiers and units. The importance of the unit sustainment training program cannot be overemphasized. Basic soldiery skills must be continuously retrained by unit commanders. Being in the frontline is not an excuse to conducting wishy-washy training program. For example, defensive preparations along with the execution of a camp defense plan must be rehearsed repeatedly. Soldiers, especially the paramilitary forces must be reminded about the importance of preventive maintenance procedures otherwise they end up at the losing end when they figure in actual battle by having their firearms not working as expected. Moreover, the constant conduct of combat patrols in the peripheries of detachments can pre-empt harassments by the enemy. Instead of us being reactionary, we have to be proactive if we are to turn the tide of the tug-of-war for supremacy in our respective area of responsiblity.
The other challenge that we have to address is how to win the support of the people. By understanding the nature of this conflict, every leader will be able to come up with his own little way of getting the loyalty and support of the local residents. First, leaders must ensure that soldiers will be viewed as the protectors of the civilian populace. Abuses against civilians must be prevented. Local government leaders must be encouraged to understand their own roles on how to resolve the local conflict. National programs and various development projects must be implemented alongside military operations conducted by the AFP. It is through effective liaising activities that the implementation of socio-economic projects will become successful. With the thriving economy brought by the presence of income-generating programs of the government and the general sense of security brought about by the stability operations launched by the military, the people will appreciate the benefits of living under the shadow of a strong democratic state.
No matter how hard it is, the accomplishment of a certain task is assured with the positive attitude displayed by our leaders. As the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way. We can only become prouder if we achieve this challenging feat. The ball is in our hands so as the game is being played, we must stay focused and concentrate only to win. We can achieve this by being united with all the stakeholders, the Bicolanos...Remember, “In unity, there is strength”.