Search JSOTF-P Blog

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Combat marksmanship skills on target at Task-Force Philippines

By Lt. Col. Tracey Saiki, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Twenty-five senior non-commissioned officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) sharpened their combat marksmanship skills at a firing range at Edwin Andrews Air Base, Philippines last month.

“I wanted to get the section NCOIC’s (non-commissioned officers in charge) together as a group and do some pistol shooting” said, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Dave Randall. “I believe Senior NCO’s should always lead by example and never ask their service members to do something they themselves wouldn’t do. We also had many of our Marine Security Element detachment members out there as well to take part in the training.”

An International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)-type course, designed by Information Operations Specialist, Sgt. First Class Michael C. Wiley, provided the service members a safe and well-controlled combat shooting environment.

“Not everyone was at the same shooting skill-level,” said Wiley, Wash. Army National Guard and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officer from Lakewood, Wash. Our IPSC course had a combination of 18 steel and paper targets, varying in size and distance, with obstacles and barriers,”

“Each shooter fired an M-9 with 32 rounds and went through the course at least three times. Every course completion was timed, scored, and displayed,” he added.

“Several shooters’ first time through took between 80-100 seconds to complete the course,” said Randall. “By the time they had gone through the second or third time, their times dropped to 50-60 seconds. That was a huge improvement and a welcomed morale booster!”

As the day’s activity was winding down, there were enough rounds left for two shooters to go through the course one final time. Wiley asked for any takers. Without any hesitation, two Marines, the most junior in rank, quickly raised their hands.

Enhancing the spirit of competition, Randall decided to have the two Marines compete against each other. Sergeant Jose Castellonlopez from combat camera won the coin toss and elected to have Lance Cpl. Amaranta Khosravi-Sanchez from the MSE detachment shoot first.

“This was my third time through the range course and my time and score kept improving,” said Khosravi-Sanchez from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and a supply warehouseman at 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. “This time, I zoned out everyone and everything. I didn’t want to be over-confident because I might do worse,” she added.

She took her time, concentrating and focusing on each target and remembered what her instructor at basic training told her, “Make black your best friend and shoot.” And shoot she did, resulting in another improved time and score, and the advantage. Castellonlopez, a pistol and rifle marksmanship coach, came close to her time and score, but he didn’t beat it.

Overall, Khosravi-Sanchez was the top female shooter with the fastest time and the fourth fastest time amongst her peers and senior non-commissioned officers. She earned their respect and admiration for improving her marksmanship skills.

“She is a warrior and I’m extremely proud that she is a member of the JSOTF-P MSE Detachment,” said Randall. “Marines like her are proof that the current generation of Marines are better than ever. She now has ‘bragging rights’ among her peers until the next time we do one of these training events.”

Randall gave her a JSOTF-P coin for her impressive achievement. “When her tour of duty is complete, her unit will get back a Marine who is better trained at this type of shooting skills than when she came here,” he added.

Khosravi-Sanchez, 20-years old, arrived here at JSOTF-P in December 2009. She didn’t know what to expect, but now she sees this deployment as a ‘stepping-stone’ preparing her for future deployments. When asked what does she want to be when she ‘grows up’? “A warden at a prison,” she assertively replied.

At the request of the Philippine Government, JSOTF-P works together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fight terrorism and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Mindanao. 
U.S. forces are temporarily deployed to the Philippines in a strictly non-combat role to advise and assist the AFP, share information, and to conduct joint civil military operations. JSOTF-P is made up of Special Operations Forces and support personnel from all four branches of the U.S. military.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seabees renovate southern Philippine school

By Lt. Cmdr. John Perkins, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines

MARAWI, Philippines – Navy builders assigned to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) have begun renovations to a Muslim elementary school in Marawi, a city located in the southern Philippines.

Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 Detachment Philippines began the renovation project April 11 by removing decrepitated roofs, windows and doors at the Tores Elementary School.

“The children had bowls on their desk because the roofs leaked when it rained,” said Builder 2nd Class Jody Brommer, the team leader for the project.

Following the demolition, the construction detachment started fabricating parts for the king post trusses that will support one of the school’s roofs. The Seabees will build and install new roofs, glass windows with screens, new internal walls, and doors to all three buildings of the school and will construct the school’s first ever restroom.

“We weren’t fortunate enough to have a bathroom,” said Noraniah Usman, the Toros barangay (neighborhood) Chairwomen. “Whenever students need to use the bathroom, they have to go home.”

“We are very fortunate to have the Seabees here; this is very big for us,” she emphasized.

Once the entire project is complete, the school will be able to educate more children.

“We teach kindergarten through the fourth grade,” said Monalica Ali, the school’s kindergarten teacher. “We hope to add grades five and six when the renovations are done.”

The Seabees plan to complete the first building by May 14 before the detachment returns to their homeport in Mississippi. For Brommer, this is a rewarding project to wrap up their time in the Philippines.

“The kids got excited when the construction began,” Brommer said. “We get to see the good things we are doing. This makes us feel good to do something for the people.”

Brommer is more than happy to continue to bare the Seabee reputation in the Pacific Fleet.

“We [Seabees] have built quite a reputation, and people are excited when they see the Seabees,” she said.

For the Toros neighborhood leader, the renovations are about the future of the children and stated this is something the community will not forget.

“They [children] will be very appreciative of what the American government has given them.”Usman said.

“We are very thankful for the work of the U.S. Seabees and for many generations to come this gift will be passed on.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zamboanga families receive generous clothing donation from U.S. service members

By Lt. Col. Tracey Saiki, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Soon after losing their homes from a fire, five Zamboanga families received two large boxes of generosity from the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines chaplain’s office on April 13, 2010.

Within hours, the chaplain’s assistant, Staff Sgt. David Buell, packed infant to adult-sized clothing, toiletries and hygiene products, toys, and school supplies ready for pick-up.

“Doing things like this makes me feel so happy and gratified because this is part of my job - to help people,” said Buell, deployed here since January from Yokota Air Base, Japan. “We get donations from churches and our families back home who want to help families like these in need.”

“These families lost everything, which was very little,” said the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office representative from Zamboanga City. “We are very grateful for the JSOTF-P’s donation and to the people in the United States to help our Zamboanga families during such a difficult time,” she added.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office was established in 1935 to assist the underprivileged Filipino population through government funded or charitable health and human services programs, and to assist in times of natural disasters or crises. PCSO has regional offices in major cities throughout the Republic of Philippines.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve donated over 600 pounds of clothing and toys to local orphanages,” said Buell. “It was so gratifying seeing the children’s faces light up when you give them a ‘new’ shirt or something the play with.

The JSOTF-P command chaplain’s office frequently partners with the Armed Forces of the Philippines chaplain representatives and accompanies them at orphanages, schools, and places of worship in local communities.

At the request of the Philippine Government, JSOTF-P works together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fight terrorism and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Mindanao. 
U.S. forces are temporarily deployed to the Philippines in a strictly non-combat role to advise and assist the AFP, share information, and to conduct joint civil military operations. JSOTF-P is made up of Special Operations Forces and support personnel from all four branches of the U.S. military.

Type your full article.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Philippine and U.S. forces complete road project that supports Partners in Peace

By Sulu Province Information Office, Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs.

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) Marines and U.S. Special Forces turned over a resurfaced road to the Sulu Provincial Government April 1.

Joint Task Force Comet (TF Comet) and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) worked together to facilitate the improvements to the four kilometers road project that connects the Maimbung and Parang Municipalities.

“The Maimbung-Parang Road turnover ceremony marks another significant accomplishment by the Partners in Peace to bring peace and development to the region,” said U.S. Army Maj. Joel Thomas, Task Force Sulu (TF Sulu) Commander. TF Sulu is one of three task forces that is part of JSOTF-P and works with TF Comet to conduct a variety of humanitarian and engineering projects. TF Sulu force works side-by-side with military forces and local government agencies to bring peace and prosperity to the Sulu Province.

JSOTF-P funded the road project and Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT-4) provided security to the local contractors conducting the road improvements.

“This project would not have been possible without the close cooperation between the local barangay [neighborhood] officials, residents and MBLT-4 ensuring the security of the construction workers,” said Thomas. “The completion of this road project demonstrates the resolve of the people who have chosen peace and development for their municipality.”

Residents now enjoy smooth and faster travel because of the wide and well-paved road. Local farmers can now easily transport their harvested farm products to the market at a lower cost. Gone are the days of travel over the rough and rugged road.

During the turn-over ceremony, Gov. Abdusakur M. Tan praised TF Comet and JSOTF-P for the initiative in repairing the Maimbung-Parang Road. He appreciated the new strategy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating terrorism through socio-economic projects that lead to progress and development.

“We prefer to provide assistance to development projects rather than engage in armed conflicts,” said Philippine Marine Lt. Col. Elias C. Juson Jr., Commanding Officer of MBLT-4. Juson also expressed his gratitude to the Barangay officials for their cooperation and to the civilian contractors for their courageous effort in making this project possible.

TF Comet and TF-Sulu have several projects underway and are continuously conducting surveys for future projects. The TF Sulu commander noted that there has been a significant decrease in lawless activity in the area since the beginning of the project.

“TF Comet and TF Sulu continue to work closely with the Provincial Government to bring projects to Sulu to improve the lives of the population and foster a long-lasting peace,” concluded Thomas.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Philippines Air Force commander recognizes U.S. efforts in Southern Philippines

By Lt. Cmdr. John Perkins, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Republic of the Philippines – The commanding general of the Philippine Air Force recognized the humanitarian efforts of U.S. military members serving in the southern Philippines during a celebration at Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) April 7.

Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena, Commanding General, Philippine Air Force (PAF), presented an award to the U.S. military representative, Lt. Cmdr. Kent Tranter, during the PAF’s 3rd Air Division (AD) 26th Founding Anniversary held on the parade grounds at EAAB.

“Your contribution to the security and people of Mindanao cannot be underestimated,” said Rabena, as he addressed the four representatives who received an appreciation plaque during the ceremony.

“You have helped bring us closer and win the hearts of our local residents,” added General Rabena. The other three plaques were given to the Philippine Medical Association, Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources and a reporter from national broadcast network ABS-CBN.

Rabena presented Tranter a plaque to recognize the efforts of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) during a Health Fair hosted March 16 on EAAB. Teaming up with community leaders and local and PAF medical providers, JSOTF-P helped the 3rd AD provide free medical treatment and medication to more than 700 local residents and PAF families.

“It is an honor and a privilege to receive recognition from the top commander of the Philippine Air Force,” said Tranter, a Navy helicopter pilot and deputy commander of Joint Special Operations Air Division who led JSOTF-P planning for the health fair.

“This plaque is not for me, it is for everyone who had a small part in making the health fair a success,” said Tranter, who is on a temporary six-month tour in the Philippines. The Jackson, Mo. native helped coordinate the contribution of two doctors, one physician’s assistant, one nurse, three hospital corpsmen, and more than 30 volunteers from JSOTF-P.

The health fair was a method for the PAF 3rd AD and JSOTF-P to reach out to local barangays (neighborhoods) and further the Philippine and United States mission of providing safe communities in Mindanao.

“It is nice to see those who need medical assistance get help. Even though we only provided minor health care, this care made a big difference in their lives and hopefully improved their perception of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Tranter said. “It was also great to hand out backpacks and school supplies to the kids and see the smiles on their faces,” he added.

“We provide community service in terms of reassuring the community of our dedication to bring peace and prosperity to all of Philippines,” said Edwin Andrews Air Base Hospital Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Edgar Ventura.

As with many regions in Mindanao, local residents do not have easy access to many medical services. The 3rd AD leaders and medical staff, teaming up with ten barangays and the U.S. military, identified airman families and residents to receive a variety of medical services.

Medical missions such as the health fair are a key component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) establishing a long-standing bond with the communities it serves, with JSOTF-P support.

“The health fair is a wonderful example of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States working side by side to improve the welfare and quality of life for people here,” said Army Col. William Coultrup, Commander, JSOTF-P.

“The plaque symbolizes the appreciation for the two countries’ partnership and desire to provide a lasting peace in Mindanao,” said Coultrup.