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Saturday, February 27, 2010

U.S. Forces Train Philippine Special Forces Group

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Thirty members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 4th Special Forces (SF) Battalion (Riverine) are receiving specialized training from members of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in Barangay (community) Recodo, Philippines over the next three months.

Recently reactivated in the Zamboanga region, the Filipino SF Battalion has embarked on a comprehensive training program designed to improve operational efficiency and mission effectiveness. The training aims to promote the battalion’s unit cohesiveness and enhance relationships between JSOTF-P members and Filipino forces.

“The class that I liked the most was the photography class because it was very interesting and it’s something I like to do,” said the Filipino battalion commander.The commander also said that on their missions, they sometimes are required to document evidence. Understanding exactly how to take photos after operations greatly increases their capabilities, he said.

Some examples of training Filipino troops are receiving are classes on radio operation, assault craft training, night navigation, combat camera operations, explosive ordnance disposal, combat medic techniques and civil military operations.

“Our counterparts were really motivated about the training. They asked really good questions and it was a wonderful experience working with them,” said a Marine Sergeant who taught a class on photography.

Additionally, the Philippine forces are learning ways to better utilize their boat assets for conducting maritime interdiction operations, which enables teams to monitor lawless activity in the waters surrounding the Mindanao region.

Each seminar consists of a short classroom presentation, followed by a more in-depth interactive portion. The demonstrations offered throughout the training can be the most valuable, as the students have the opportunity to apply what they learn during the classroom instruction

“The Philippine Special Forces are some of the most knowledgeable, skilled troops I have ever worked with. I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge about hand held and fixed radios. The classes were a lot of fun,” said a JSOTF-P Air Force Senior Airman.

The battalion signed an administrative procedure agreement with JSOTF-P on Feb. 19 outlining the different types of training Filipino troops will be receiving. One important aspect of the seminars is to apply the train-the-trainer concept to each class. This procedure identifies select students who are designated as the future teachers of the class and will then instruct other units in the battalion.

A primary mission capability of JSOTF-P is to conduct these types of trainings, called subject-matter-expert exchanges. Through these classes, the Filipino and JSOTF-P members share their experience from each other throughout the courses. In many of these sessions, Filipino instructors teach large portions of the class and are the experts in their given field.

The Filipino SF members know the terrain and often can share their first-hand operational experience. It is the sharing of information that makes Filipino and American forces better prepared to execute their missions.

“I enjoyed the class very much. Some of the things I learned from the class were how to input channel frequencies and set up a patrol antenna,” said a Philippine Army Sergeant who attended a class with JSOTF-P radio operators.

Friday, February 26, 2010

U.S. Forces Assist in Treating 1,000 Patients During Zamboanga MEDCAP

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - Numerous governmental organizations, educational intuitions, non-profit organizations and military doctors from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines teamed up to treat more than 1,000 patients at a Medical Civic Action Project in Barangay (community) Taluksangay Feb. 24.

As with many regions in Mindanao, local residents here cannot afford medical services. Missions such as these may be the only opportunity in the year they will have to seek medical treatment.

The organizations that came together to conduct this mission consider it an honor to support the residents in Talulsangay and give back to the community.

“This is so wonderful to see what we can do here. It is a great feeling to help our people in need,” said Doy Heredia, co-founder of Lingkod Timog, a U.S. based Filipino charity group.

Drawing upon established relationships within the Filipino community, Lingkod Timog spearheaded the MEDCAP. Founded in 2004, the group conducts yearly medical campaigns aimed at the Philippines most underprivileged and impoverished residents. They also strive to strengthen relations between the United States and the Philippines.

More than 30 volunteers from all over the world came to Mindanao, coordinating with more than 25 agencies to conduct not only this MEDCAP, but a three-day medical mission in Southern Mindanao visiting the Barangays of Sangali (Aplaya) and Bato in Lamitan, Basilan.

Other agencies that participated included the Philippine National Police, Philippine Medical Association, Ciudid Medical Hospital, Philippine Women’s Medical Women’s Association and Mindanao Central Sanitarium.

Held at the Hadjii Abdulla Nuno Memorial High School, the patients received a variety of services, such as 50 circumcisions, 150 tooth extractions, numerous check-ups and vaccinations, and 25 minor surgeries such a cyst removals.

Lingkod Timog volunteers also enlisted the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. The AFP provided several nurses, doctors, and Marines from Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command provided convoy security. In addition, JSOTF-P donated medications and two U.S. Navy Corpsmen assisted with dental extractions and minor surgeries.

“Working with so many organizations that have just been so instrumental in making this happen has been such a wonderful experience,” said U.S. Army Capt. Luis Rivera-Fonseca, a member of Civil Affairs Team 716 from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, Alpha Company with headquarters in Fort Bragg, N.C.

“This is just effective, well-integrated Civil Military Operations (CMO). It is humbling to witness this group of ordinary people doing such extraordinary things for their own people. Look around; here is the military, the government, and the non-government sectors working together to achieve a common goal,” he said.

Medical missions such as this are a cornerstone of the Armed Forces of the Philippines CMO. Run completely by the AFP, the military in Mindanao is demonstrating their devotion to the people and enlisting the help of other agencies that are also donating their time.

For example, Ateneo de Zamboanga University College of Nursing had several students conducting the registration of the patients, greatly aiding in the success of the mission.

“We are so very happy and so very blessed to have this medical mission today. This is a great help to us, for not only our students, but for those in the community as well,” said Elena F. Balan, principal of the high school.

“Most of our people cannot afford doctors or medications, so now we have a chance to give them free check-ups,” she said.

Successes such as these are a testament to the Filipino's commitment to serving the community. While hospital care and other medical services may be too expensive for many of the locals, organizations do what they can here to bridge the gap and provide for the populace.

“We are so grateful and thankful to have so much help in putting together this mission. We have such a big opportunity to help the people here,” said Saida L. Abdurasid, a social studies teacher at the school.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

AFP, Local Government and JSOTF-P Treat 450 Patients at Medical and Dental Project

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

JOLO, Philippines-Sulu Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Comet and the Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines teamed up with staff from Notre Dame of Jolo College to hold a Medical and Dental Civic Action Project in Jolo municipality Feb. 16.

The one-day event treated more than 450 residents of the Bajau community, an indigenous ethnic group and underserved population living in the Barangays (communities) of Bus Bus and Takut Takut.

As medical services are rare in these areas, the opportunity to provide treatment to their children was appreciated by many of the residents who attended.

“I came here today to receive medication for my children. My twins have had terrible coughs and fever, and I had nothing to give them but now they can become healthy. We are so happy to be here and I hope this event happens again,” said Dinen Nursan, a local villager.

Many organizations came together to make this day a reality. As part of the college’s “Community Extension Service Day,” the event signified the dedication the people of Jolo have to helping others in need.

Throughout the day, residents received check-ups, antibiotics and hygiene products. A Philippines-based dental company also assisted with the efforts by donating more than 300 toothbrushes and toothpastes to celebrate “Oral Health Awareness Month.” IPHO officials also passed out the supplies, along with performing free dental health screenings.

Representatives from JTF Comet’s Jolo Internal Defense Force, Marine Battalion Landing Team-Six (MBLT-6), staff of the university and the Sulu IPHO worked closely together making sure the community was served through this project.

Additionally, 16 AFP Nurses from Camp Asturias in Jolo municipality treated patients for minor ailments and passed out medications..

Civil affairs representatives from JSOTF-P from Civil Affairs Team 715 from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, Alpha Company headquarters in Fort Bragg, N.C. also attended the MEDCAP, and brought donated medications, helping with some elements of the project

However, U.S. Army Capt. Daniel Mayeda, Task Force Sulu civil affairs planner, was quick to point out that although JSOTF-P was there to help, it was the AFP, school and government officials who deserve the credit for planning and executing the event.

“This was a real joint effort between the AFP and the local officials here. It is great to see the citizens of Sulu come together to plan these events. We may have provided a little assistance, but they really took the lead in making this day happen,” said Mayeda.

Notre Dame College also played a large role in the medical mission, with nursing students registering patients, criminology undergraduates who helped pass out eight large sacks of donated clothes from MBLT-6, and the college staff who attended, showing their support in giving the Bajau people medical care.

“The event today was very important to us. As medical check-ups are very expensive, we were able to give this care to the people for free. Additionally, we are giving training to our nursing students who are learning how to take blood pressure and other vital signs,” said Precilla D. Chang, college director for community extension services.

JSOTF-P Selected for Civil Affairs Evaluation Test Program

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines- U.S. service members and supporting contractors from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Joint Test and Evaluation (JT&E) Program selected the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) as the location for a 30-day field test of newly developed civil information management procedures Jan. 15-Feb. 15.

The Joint Test (JT) began at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga, Philippines. As with all of the OSD’s JT&E projects, the driving force of this JT was finding ways to improve joint mission capabilities for the war fighter.

The Joint Civil Information Management (J-CIM) JT project was established in Aug. 2008 with sponsorship by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The project is largely driven by the Army civil affairs community’s recognition of the need to standardize civil information collection, consolidation and sharing among military agencies, inter-agency organizations, international groups and Non-Government Organizations (NGO).

The J-CIM JT test developed Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) for civil information management will help achieve unity of effort and a whole-of-government approach to challenges teams face while performing their duties.

“This program is about elements on the ground collecting physical data about the civil domain meaning infrastructure or economic development. This is the first step in trying to standardize how we collect assessment data, so the right people can get the right information at the right time,” said Army Col. Donald Jackson, J-CIM JT director.

“Additionally this program is not just a military-centric operation. For example, here it is about empowering and supporting the Philippines and the Philippine government and working with non-military agencies that are supporting this theater,” he said.

Jackson also said that for military commanders to understand the ground operation they need to be able to paint a picture of the environment and civil information helps them to do that. He also explained that this is not just limited to the Army Civil Affairs Teams, but that all branches of service, U.S. government agencies and NGOs can use civil information to make decisions about the needs of a particular area.

Other examples of the data teams may want to gather include demographics of a particular region, the number of elementary schools, key community leaders or how many engineering projects have been completed in a particular barangay (community).

The eventual outcome is to develop standardized data-collection, consolidation and sharing procedures which can be accessed via an unclassified database. Currently, civil information is stored in several locations, varying formats and often cannot be shared with different government agencies. Additionally, much of this open-source information is only available on government secret computers.

Creating a centralized mechanism for all key stakeholders to obtain agreed-upon information can help commanders plan infrastructure projects, medical and veterinarian missions and examine best practices.

The J-CIM JT team was accompanied by six Army Soldiers from the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C. The team traveled to Basilan, Cotabato, Marawi and Sulu, collecting data on how the JSOTF-P forces executed their missions using the J-CIM developed TTPs.

Although JSOTF-P was the platform for the J-CIM program, the TTPs used in this program will be used by all services and government agencies such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and others that are operating within a joint military environment.

In fact, USAID signed an Administrative and Procedural Agreement on Dec. 15, signifying the partnership to develop best practices in recording information on humanitarian construction projects. Additionally, this is the first time an inter-agency has been on a charter for a joint test.

For the teams on the ground here, going through the evaluation process gives the civil affairs team encouragement that this way of consolidating agreed-upon information will greatly enhance their capabilities to effectively carry out the mission.

“This has been a great way for us to develop a way forward for all the agencies that we work with,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jason Duffield. “Having a hand in that process was actually kind of cool, and I can really see how this will enhance what we do here.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AFP and JSOTF-P Teach Combat Medic Lifesaving Course

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

CAVITE, Philippines- Twenty Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Navy SEALs participated in a month-long lifesaving course taught by three U.S. Navy SEAL Medics assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) at Naval Station Cavite from Jan. 11-Feb. 5.

The purpose of the course was to train one to two AFP Navy SEALs from each Naval Special Operations Unit (NAVSOU) as combat medics. The hope is that through this training, they will know what immediate steps to take to save victim’s lives if they experience casualties during combat operations.

“In the past, we have had to treat many casualties so this training is so important to us. We can save our comrades with what we have learned here. This will really help us on the battlefield,” said a NAVSOU team leader.

During the course, students learned basic and advanced first aid and life support, as well as treatments such as applying a tourniquet to stop bleeding, ways to open a patient’s airway, treatment for a collapsed lung and how to treat patients for shock.

“Our intent for the course is to give these few SOF [Special Operations Force] operators advanced medical training and a more in- depth understanding; this will lead to these students passing along these skills to others,” said a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class (SEAL) Medic teaching the course.

The course was divided into four sections. During the first week, teams learned about basic body anatomy, and then learned how to administer first-responder care to wounded patients.

The conclusion of the class ended with a final field exercise where teams were divided into two to put their newly-acquired skills to the test. The exercise consisted of a simulated operation where troops were injured and the students had to provide traumatic causality care

“The students performed really well during the course. I think they can handle a multiple-systems traumatic patient. They are well capable and well prepared to go to their respective units and handle causalities,” said a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Medic teaching the course.

Additionally, teams learned how to perform minor, immediate surgeries and how to properly diagnosis combat injuries. They also learned how to apply an IV to a patient, in order to quickly restore fluid to an injured team member.

Students in the course were also given the opportunity to receive training from the AFP Medical Center in Quezon City by shadowing doctors and nurses in several of the hospital’s departments.

For two days, students learned many aspects of hospital care, including additional IV training and how to check for vital signs. At the end of the visit, they were given an open invitation to return to do more hands-on training

JSOTF-P teams here strive to take their knowledge gained from training and experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions to train others. Often, during these subject matter expert exchanges, the AFP and JSOTF-P learn new skills by working closely with one another. The AFP Navy SEALs are experts on the jungle environment and often instruct portions of the course, enhancing the class by students learning from each other and not just from the JSOTF-P teams.

The course was the most comprehensive medical training given to NAVSOU from JSOTF-P to date. JSOTF-P medics also plan to teach additional classes at the NAVSOU unit headquarters in Zamboanga to others who were unable to attend the course.

The course was also greatly enhanced by the AFP’s Naval Special Operations Group, which outfitted each student with a “Medpack,” a large backpack filled with lifesaving medical supplies.

Items such as tourniquet bandages, gauze, and I.V. kits were among many items in each backpack. At the graduation ceremony, each student was given the supplies along with a certificate recognizing them as official combat medics.

Through the cooperation and coordination of the AFP and JSOTF-P, enlisted Sailors assigned to NAVSOU will return to their units with an increased understanding of tactical combat causality care and an increased confidence that when called upon, they can save the lives of their comrades.

“This training is very important to me because if my teammate gets hurt, I can save his life. I want this special skill to save my brothers," said a 3rd Class Petty Officer with NAVSOU 6.

Monday, February 8, 2010

AFP Acquires New 11-Meter Boats; JSOTF-P Assists with Training

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

CAVITE, Philippines-Fourteen members of Armed Forces of the Philippines are receiving training on four 11-meter-long Naval Special Warfare Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB) by Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines during a course at Naval Base Cavite which began Jan. 12.

Because terrorism and other lawless activity takes place frequently throughout the waterways where NAVSOU operates, it is imperative that they know how to perform missions using these boats.

The six-week course is designed to give students follow-on training after four RHIBs were purchased by the Philippine Government in July 2009 from the U.S. Maritime Institute. These are the first 11-meter RHIBs purchased for use by NAVSOUs. Initially, NAVSOG sailors were internally trained by the AFP on basic craft operation, maintenance and navigation.

At that point, JSOTF-P’s Task Force Archipelago was asked to conduct an advanced, detailed course at Cavite, similar to the training a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combat Crewman receives.

“The people going through this course now will become trainers themselves now that they are experts on the boats. After the class, they will then go back to their respective units and train others on what they learned here,” said the JSOTF-P Navy SEAL Officer-in-Charge.

While going through the training, students learned different parts of boat operation and mission execution, such as mission planning, schematics of the boat, night navigation, medical training (if someone is injured while riding), weapons employment and how to perform maintenance to keep the boats fully operational.

Since military subject matter expert exchanges are one of the key mission capabilities of JSOTF-P, sharing this knowledge and enhancing the skill sets of the NAVSOU was an honor for the East coast based Special Boat Team.

“The AFP’s Navy SEALs did a great job during this class. Their motivation to receive this knowledge is great. I was continuously impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment to the training. I am fully comfortable with their ability to operate the boat,” said JSOTF-P’s RHIB detachment Leading Chief Petty Officer.

Upon completion of the training, the crafts will be sent to various units which will enhance the AFP’s capabilities to address transnational crimes and counter maritime threats by conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations.