Search JSOTF-P Blog

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Soldiers join Arbour Day in Zamboanga

By Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A tree-planting activity was held Friday in celebration of Arbour Day in the city.

Participants planted over 2,000 tree seedlings in Sitio Abong-abong, Pasonanca village.

Among those who joined the event were government employees, the police and military.

The rain did not stop soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP) from planting their own set of trees.

Lt. Col. Bob Boone, Chief of Staff for JSOTFP said they support any program that promotes the environment.

Other than tree planting, the local government also tagged century-old trees around town.

This year they have labeled at least 16 trees. Among the oldest was a 155-year-old acacia tree located in Pettit Barracks, Zamboanga City

APF, U.S. troops support Kapuso donations of school supplies to Basilan children

Bong Garcia, Philippine Sun Star

Some 600 first grade pupils from the 10 villages in Hadji Muhtamad town in Basilan, Basilan province, have benefited in the outreach program of the GMA Kapuso Foundation Inc.

Hadji Muhtamad Mayor Anwar Abdulmajid said Friday the children have received school supplies during the outreach program dubbed as "Unang Hakbang Sa Kinabukasan 2010."

Abdulmajid said the children were very happy when each of them received a backpack full of school supplies.

The distribution of the school supplies in last Monday's outreach program in Barangay Tausan was spearheaded by GMA Kapuso Foundation Inc. Project Officer Tina G. Dungca, whose team traveled all the way from Manila to Hadji Muhtamad town.

Abdulmajid said that each backpack contains school supplies like pencils, ballpens, erasers, pad papers, notebooks, crayons and others.

"Noon napapanood lang nila sa TV (ang outreach program), pero ngayon sila ang beneficiaries," Abdumajid said citing the children as well as the parents were very happy and grateful to the GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc. for initiating the outreach program.

He said the outreach program was coupled by a feeding program initiated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Provincial Officer Lilia Bucoy in coordination with Hadji Muhtamad municipal government.

He said a team from the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines led by Captain Bill Adam has also turned over science kits for all of the elementary school in Hadji Muhtamad town.

He said the science kits were donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) which was facilitated by Adam.

Abdulmajid has also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) chief Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, First Marine Brigade chief Brig. Gen. Eugene Clemen and Department of Education (DepEd) provincial office headed by Supt. Nurhaya Abdurahim for their support to the realization of the outreach program.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Classroom built through Bayanihan

By Bong Garcia, The Philippine Sun Star

Through the Bayanihan spirit, Philippine Marines, US soldiers, parents and teachers have constructed a one-room classroom building in a town in Sulu, south of Zamboanga City.

The classroom building, which aims to provide a conducive learning environment to school children, was funded by the American government through the Task Force Sulu under the US Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

It was built for the Maharadja Abduraup Elementary School in the village of Buansa, Indanan where there are at least 400 enrollees for the school year 2010-2011.

The labor work, which is free of charge, was provided by the Filipino and US troops as well as the parents of students and the teachers of the school.

The classroom was turned over to the Maharadja Abduraup Elementary School principal last Thursday in time for the opening of classes, said Lieutenant Colonel Robert Velasco, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 (MBLT-6) on Tuesday.

Velasco said the one-classroom building is “our way of showing to the people of Sulu that we are concern on their children’s education.”

The school’s principal, Garcia Paradji, on behalf of the teachers, parents and pupils, has expressed gratitude to the U.S. forces and MBLT-6 troops for their untiring support to the school.

Earlier, the U.S. and Filipino troops have repaired two classrooms in the same school in time for the opening of classes for school year 2010-2011.

Paradji said the newly-constructed one-classroom building will be used by the Grade 3 pupils.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Medal of Recognition Awarded to JSOTF-P Commander

By Lt. Steffani Cacho, Western Mindanao Command Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Senior Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leader presented a Philippine military medal June 18 to the commander of U.S. forces in the southern Philippines for his contributions that has brought stability and security to war torn areas of Basilan and Sulu.

The Western Mindanao Command (WMC) Commander, Lt. Gen. Ben D. Dolorfino, AFP, presented the “Gawad sa Kaunlaran” Medal to Col. William J. Coultrup, United States Army, as fitting recognition for his contributions to community development especially in war torn areas of Basilan and Sulu. The award recognized Coultrup’s efforts during his stint as the commander of Joint Special Operations Task Forces – Philippines (JSOTF-P) from September 2007 to July 2010, at a formal ceremony held at Camp Navarro.

For his part, Dolorfino reiterated his gratitude for the assistance extended by the JSOTF-P, through the leadership and command of Coultrup, to the mission of WMC to bring about conditions conducive to nation building and peace, progress, and prosperity in the western Mindanao provinces. He emphasized that the “Gawad sa Kaunlaran” is an award given for acts that are geared towards development which has been the cornerstone of the relationship of the two military commands.

“Col. Coultrup has earned the lasting admiration and gratitude not only from the Western Mindanao Command, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well,” Dolorfino emphasized.

During his term, JSOTF-P provided medical supplies, school supplies, and construction materials which made way for the success of numerous civic action projects such as medical, dental, and veterinarian assistance and outreach and engineering projects to include renovation and construction of classrooms and school buildings and establishment of farm-to-market roads, all amounting to more than $28 million dollars.

“The award of the Gawad sa Kaunlaran was given to Coultrup for his pursuits and infallible contributions to the socioeconomic and noncombat activities of the WMC, and the AFP as a whole,” said Dolorfino.

In his remarks, Coultrup shared the honor he received with the men and women that he worked with, and the personnel of the AFP. He acknowledged the effort and dedication of both armed forces to help bring about peace and prosperity in areas that have been embroiled with strife and allow individuals and families to hope for a better future, while recognizing that more still needs to be done. He also emphasized how the concept of “Kapit Bisig”, the framework of cooperation between the two nations, was a model for future efforts in all regions where terrorism exists.

“Confident in the relationships we [JSOTF-P and AFP] have forged and our collective achievements over the past three years, I challenge all of you to continue moving forward in this common cause leveraging the same innovation, ingenuity and initiative that has brought us to this historic moment. It has been my distinct pleasure to serve with you,” said Coultrup.

In the same ceremony, Coultrup was also presented a plaque of recognition and an “Agong” as a memento of his stay in Mindanao. Coultrup is set to be replaced on the first week of July 2010.

The occasion was witnessed by ranking commanders in the area of WMC to include the Rear Adm. Alexander Pama, Commander, Naval Forces Western Mindanao, APF, Brig. Gen. Gregorio E. Macapagal, Deputy Commander of the 3rd Air Div

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Government agencies serve Sangbay Island folks

By Bong Garcia, Philippine Sun Star

EIGHT-HUNDRED individuals including children benefited from the one-day Medical, Dental and Civic Action Program (Medcap) last Wednesday in Basilan.

The program was held by multi-government agencies including the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) at remote Sangbay Island (big), Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan province.

Hadji Muhtamad Mayor Anwar Abdulmajid said Friday that among the services rendered were free medical consultation, tooth extraction, circumcision, haircut, and others as well as free medicines were given to those who need medication.

Abdulmajid said the people warmly welcomed the multi-agency groups that also include the Philippine Marine troops and JSOTF-P personnel who conducted the outreach mission.

He said the beneficiaries also include the residents of nearby Sangbay Island (small).

"Dati kasi kapag makakita o mabalitaan ng mga tao na may maga sundalo pupunta sa lugar nila, nagtatago sila," Abdulmajid said.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) provincial office led by Lilia Bucoy released P500 to each senior citizens’ through the "Katas ng VAT Para kay Lolo at Lola."

A feeding program was also held for the children by Bucoy's, Abdulmajid said.

He said the Department of Education (DepEd) provincial office headed by Nurhaya Abdurahim participated and readied the school classrooms for the opening of classes on Tuesday.

Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Social Fund also joined them and inspected the different projects it implemented in Sangbay Island (big).

He said the Medcap was realized through the help of Western Mindanao Command, First Marine Brigade, Marine Battalion Landing Team-1, Provincial Health Office headed by Dr. Jarmila Ballaho, Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, and Hadji Muhtamad municipal government.

Abdulmajid said the Medcap is all-in-one activity.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Joint US-Phil Army sails on ‘fish for peace’

By Ferdinandh B. Cabrera, The Mindanao Cross

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato – Hundreds of residents in a village of Barangay Nes of this town have benefitted the “Fish for Peace” program aimed to train local folks in propagating new species of fresh water fish “Pangasius”.

The effort was initiated by Eastern Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer with his counterparts from the Joint Special Operations Task Force of the U.S. Army headed by Col. William Coultrup along with community partner Magungaya Center for PALMA, Inc.

A 300-square meter techno-demo farm pond with a start-up of 1,500 fingerlings of Pangasius will serve as a training ground to those who are interested in this aqua farming business.

The town of Midsayap and nearby localities here in Central Mindanao is a potential breeding and raising ground for Pangasius with its proximity to Ligausan Marsh and many fresh water sources.

“If we introduce development programs in the conflict areas, we can attain certain peace. When people have food for their family, they can think better, more so if they have money, then they can send their children to school; in effect, it would increase literacy in the community,” said Lt. Gen. Ferrrer.

He further stressed if the people could feel there is development working in their communities, they wouldn’t be easily duped from the ideals of lawless groups in engaging arm struggle against the government.

Based on a study on this fish species project, huge tones of the meat product awaits the markets which Ferrer said can open better opportunities for rural folk.

The meat of Pangasius, usually called as cream dory, is now an alternative recipe in some hotels and restaurants around the country following the depleting supply of tuna fish.

“We are providing them now with a different outlook in life. With this fish farming, they have something to turn to and will lead to more stability. In this case, we are expecting they will push out lawless elements that are trying to disrupt their area, especially when they are turning to development,” added Col. Coultrup.

Department of Trade and industry may help in marketing the products while the Department of Agriculture can provide technical knowledge and trainings along with the B-Meg Company, a huge aqua-marine feed producer in the country.

Junalyn Sumlay of the Magungaya Center for Palma Inc. was glad to work with the initiative of the joint forces. “This is really something in the hearts and minds of the people.”

She added that 43 members of the Magungaya quick response team will be the pilot individuals to be model farmers in their respective barangays in PALMA area.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fort Lewis Medical Team assists Philippine Marines

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Scott

SULU, Philippines - A small team of doctors and dentists from Ft. Lewis, Wash. recently arrived in Sulu, an island-chain Province in the southwest Philippines, to assist the Philippine Marines in their new strategy to work closely with local communities.

The medical team, from 1st Special Forces Group (SFG), is temporarily assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) and spent four days conducting Medical and Dental Civic Action Projects (MEDCAPs) May 22-25. The MEDCAPs were coordinated and facilitated by Philippine Marines assigned to Marine Battalion Landing Teams (MBLT) 4, 5, and 6; as well as representatives from the Sulu provincial Departments of Agriculture and Health and the Sulu Integrated Provincial Health Office.

The MEDCAPs provided medical and dental assistance and hands-on health information to more than 750 people from more than 20 barangays (communities) within three municipalities of Sulu.

"We came down here to support the JSOTF-P mission through MEDCAPs," said Maj. Michael Brooks, Dentist with 1st SFG.

“Supporting the mission of the JSOTF-P, to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their fight against terrorism, aligns with the new approach the Marines in southern Mindanao and Sulu are taking to deny safe havens for lawless groups through projects such as these,” he added.

The Philippine Marines’ new strategy of helping local communities through medical assistance, road improvement projects, school renovations, and education is a change from their previous focus on primarily combat operations. These efforts are focused on providing long-term security and stability, which leads to development and prosperity, and is proving to be effective.

“This is a long process and we have changed our strategy to a more civil military operation (CMO) focus and not just of only going after the enemy,” said Lt. Col. Elias Jucen Jr., Commander, MBLT 4. “Through our CMO efforts, we create friends, not enemies.”

At a MEDCAP conducted at Parang District Hospital, Dr. Jubaira Isnain, Chief of the Hospital, commended the Marines on the paradigm shift from operations to their new strategy of incorporating other organizations into community outreach projects.

"The Marines have developed a triad; the Sulu Provincial Department of Health and local government working together. Today’s event is the glue that bonds this triad together," said Isnain, a native of Sulu.

Abdurahman Tungupun, Parang High School nurse and area religious leader president, volunteered his services during the MEDCAP. He felt the partnership between the government, local government, and military was very important to a longer-lasting peace in Sulu.

"This is a positive reaction from the past, especially with helping the children. People realize the Armed Forces of the Philippines are not advocates of war, but advocates for peace and health," he said.

During each MEDCAP, public health and hygiene classes were taught to the local families through educational and interactive means. Capt. Dennis Rufolo, SFG Environmental Science Officer, helped coordinate and teach these classes with local Ministry of Health personnel.

"We were able to provide valuable health services and health education to those who have limited access to healthcare," said Rufolo. "The AFP and MBLTs took the lead and were responsible for this success."

"Through Mercia Alia, Chief of Operations for the Sulu Provincial Department of Agriculture, I was able to teach a very basic but effective food safety class and during the presentation we tailored it to their specific living environments," said Rufolo. "When we had women actually asking us specific questions about their situations and how to protect their families, I knew we were making a difference because they were paying attention and cared."

Hja Lydra Hayudini, from a neighboring municipality, came to the MEDCAP to see a health care provider about the pain she is having in her back. Before seeing a doctor, she worked with Mercia Ali and Capt. Rufolo. Standing on stage, Hayudini provided her perspective on the importance of good health habits and sanitation when handling food to those attending the MEDCAP.

“They [Filipinos] come home and cook with dirty hands and someone in their family gets sick,” Hayudini said about the importance of providing hygiene and heath education. “They have no money to see a doctor, so this education is vital to the health of the overall family.”

Lt. Col. Jucen also supports the goal of long-term peace building through proper education.

"These events are more than providing services to the people," he said. "It is also about providing information to help them over time. Medicine may last for a few days, but information and education last a lifetime."

Despite this being the second deployment to the Philippines for a couple of the team members, they are still amazed at the local hospitality.

"They're [local community] so grateful for what you do for them and they treat you well." said Staff Sgt. Rosa Duran, a dental technician.

Through these cooperative projects, the medical team is certain that the local government and AFP will continue to work together and promote these goodwill efforts.

"There was a great turnout of AFP forces and local volunteers who came out and helped the community," said Maj. Mark Anderson, JSOTF-P Command Surgeon.

Contributing to the civil operations mission of the Marines is a long-lasting endeavor that the medical team is glad to be a part of.

"I think it’s great we were working beside our Filipino counterparts," said Anderson.

"The mission of the JSOTF-P is to support the efforts of the AFP, and that’s exactly what we were able to do."

With the assistance of the 1st Special Forces Group medical team, the Philippine Marines were able to take one more step forward in their efforts to help the community receive needed information and medical care. The team from Washington State continues their efforts in upcoming projects in central Mindanao this week.