Troops deployed vs growing threats in NorMin, Caraga-A A +A
Friday, January 24, 2014
MORE than 200 army troops fresh from relief operations in Tacloban City have been deployed to counter the growing insurgency threats in the regions of Northern Mindanao and Caraga on Thursday.
Two C130 planes of the Philippine Air Force flew four sorties to ferry the soldiers from Tacloban to Lumbia airport, the former hub of civilian air transportation in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao.
Brigadier General Gerardo F. Barrientos Jr., assistant division commander at 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, said this special unit, the 1st Special Forces Battalion of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), will serve as the commanders of the division’s paramilitary forces particularly the citizen armed force geographical unit (Cafgu).
Barrientos said the unit is a “welcome addition” to the army division who is already thick in the fighting against the Communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Barrientos said the soldiers, who are highly trained in unconventional warfare and performs high-risk missions, will be assigned initially to train Cafgu members.
“We have heard so much of you (special forces) in terms of handling paramilitary forces. In this case, our paramilitary forces will be supervised by this special force to downgrade their (insurgents) capability. It will boost the division’s force in terms of personnel, lalong dadami,” Barrientos told soldiers during the welcome ceremony at Lumbia Airport.
Barrientos cited that Cafgus were involved in 70 percent of the 244 firefights with the soldiers recorded in 2013. “The militiamen are our first line of defense,” Barrientos said.
He said the troop is noted for its successes in containing the NPA rebels in Quezon province in Luzon prior to its assignment in Tacloban City.
Captain Christian Uy, 4ID spokesperson, said the special forces are also highly trained in the art of peace and security development.
Uy said prior to their assignment in Northern Mindanao, the troops served as a support of the army engineers during the clearing operations in Tacloban City in opening up the major routes that allow faster delivery of goods and aid to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Planners at the 4th Infantry Division earlier sought the transfer of the 1st Special Forces Battalion in the aftermath of the NPA attack on Del Monte and ambush of former Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guigona.
The battalion was supposed to arrive here in November 2013 but was deployed to Tacloban after Yolanda destroyed the city.
Lt. Col. Nasser Ledesma, commanding officer of the 1st Special Forces Battalion said they were among the first government troops to arrive in Tacloban and provided security around its airport, the main lifeline to aid from the outside.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 24, 2014.