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Friday, August 27, 2010

US troops turn over new school buildings in Marawi

By Apipa P. Bagumbaran, Philippine Information Agency

Islamic City of Marawi (25 August) -- Three (3) school buildings funded by the US government were formally turned over yesterday to the school administrators of Toros Primary School in brgy. Lumbaca Toros, this city.

The US Navy Seabees together with the soldiers from the 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Kampo Ranao here in the city reconstructed the buildings that took four (4) months to complete.

The school buildings contain nine (9) classrooms, principal's office, and a comfort room.

School and city officials are grateful to the US government for this project saying that the new classrooms will provide a more comfortable learning environment for their school children.

Our more than 300 school children who used to hold classes under depleted building structures are expected to benefit from the newly reconstructed school buildings, said Hedjara Marabur, the school principal.

In behalf of the city government, we expressed our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the US government and to the people who made this project a success, said councilor Anuar Khana Marabur Jr.

The construction of the school buildings means a lot to us and we hope we will have a continuing partnership with the local government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a US army officer in charge of the area said.

Colonel Felix Castro, deputy commander of the 103rdBde, meanwhile encourages the school administrators and teachers to maximize the utilization of the classrooms.

He said it is very significant that the US army took the initiative in constructing these buildings aimed to bring education closer to the people especially in areas where decent classrooms were unavailable.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

American, Filipino troops hold medical mission

By Bong Garcia, Philippine Sun Star

TABUAN LASA, Basilan – Hundreds of residents has availed Monday of the joint American and Filipino troops' Medical Civic Action Program (Medcap).

The parents of children availing the program patiently fetched their children and other family members who need medical attention to Lanawan Elementary School, where the Medcap is being held, to avail of free medication.

Each of the patients was given free medicines corresponding to their needs following free medical consultations at the mobile clinic.

The mobile clinic was jointly manned by the municipal health personnel as well as American and Filipino troops where they rendered free medical consultations.

Free medicines were given to the patients as well and vitamins to the children.

“We are trying our best to address health related problems in remote areas,” Marine Battalion Landing Team-7 commander, Lieutenant Colonel Doroteo Jose Jalandoni, said of the Medcap.

Jalandoni said the holding of the Medcap is one tool of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the fight against insurgency and terrorism.

Jalandoni said it is aimed to win the hearts and minds of the civilian populace to support the government's anti-insurgency and anti-terror campaign and to bring the government closer to the people.

The American and Filipino troops have also distributed toothbrush and toothpaste and taught them the proper way of brushing their teeth.

Mayor Muctar Junaid has expressed his utmost gratitude to the American and Filipino troops for the holding of the Medcap in this town.

“This (Medcap) is a big help to our constituents,” Junaid said citing this town lacks health facilities and do not have its own hospital.

Junaid said the Medcap Monday is the first time of its kind in this town since the municipality was created in 2008.

PCG and AFP cross-train on lifesaving and Maritime Law Enforcement

By Philippine Coast Guard Public Affairs

In line with the directive of President Benigno C Aquino III for all government agencies to integrate their efforts and strengthen inter-agency cooperation, the Philippine Coast Guard has entered into an agreement with the Armed Forces of the Philippines through the 4th Special Forces Battalion and the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines for the conduct of joint training on Lifesaving and Maritime Law Enforcement in Zamboanga City.

The said training formally convened last August 9, 2010 involving fifteen (15) members of the Special Operations Group of the Philippine Coast Guard and fifteen (15) personnel of the Riverine Unit of the 4th Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army. To ensure interoperability and common understanding of the participants, the Philippine Coast Guard shared their personnel expertise in Basic Water Survival, Basic Navigation, Scuba Refresher Training, Recompression Chamber Operations, Boarding Procedures, Rules of Engagement and Legal Aspects of Maritime Law Enforcement. On the other hand, the AFP shared their expertise in Combat Life Saving Techniques, Small Unit Tactics, Marine Interdiction Operations and Basic Close Quarter Combat; while the US Contingent shared their knowledge and skills on Underwater Demolition and Post Blast Investigation.

To manifest commitment and sincerity of the Coast Guard on the said training, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Wilfredo D Tamayo has directed the Search and Rescue Vessel (BRP EDSA-II) fitted with a recompression chamber and complemented with a Hyperbaric medical doctor onboard to participate and serve as a training platform in Zamboanga. Commander Artemio Abu PCG is the Commanding Officer of BRP EDSA II (SARV 002) which is presently under the operational control of Coast Guard District South Eastern Mindanao under the command of Commodore Rodolfo Isorena PCG. The training is scheduled to culminate tomorrow 24 August 2010. The PCG has embarked on aggressive cross-training programs with partner services and maritime nations in the areas of maritime safety, marine environmental protection, and maritime security.

(coast guard) (manila bulletin)

Monday, August 9, 2010

RP, US soldiers build training camp for Sulu youths

By Elena Aben, Manila Bulletin

Philippine Marines and the United States Seabees have joined hands to give youth in the conflict-stricken island province of Sulu tools to give them reason to dream and build a better future, and at the same time, arm them against extremism, noting that “the only way to win [peace] is to empower the people themselves.”

Thus for the past weeks, elements of the Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 6 (MBLT 6) together with US Sailors from the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) endured the mud, heat, and rain to work side-by-side constructing a new facility on Camp Bud Datu – a barracks for some “very important trainees.”

JSOTF-P public affairs officers revealed the trainees are not soldiers and the training is not in military tactics. The new barracks, it was learned, is an addition to the Tausug Youth Training Camp, a project organized and carried out by the MBLT 6.

The trainees, for whom the facility is being built with the help of US Sailors from Seabee Squad Two, are young Filipino men and women from local municipalities in the island province of Sulu, while the training is seen to provide youth with tools that – in the hopes of Lt. Col. Robert Velasco, MBLT 6 commander – will help them build a better future.

According to Velasco, MBLT 6 has embarked on a youth development training program and the [barracks project for the existing] Tausug Youth Camp is a facility to increase the capacity to teach the youth how to be civic-minded persons and how to be good citizens.

This, as he pointed out only needs to look at simple statistics to ascertain the reason why he, his Marines, and US forces are willing to spend effort on programs to open the window of opportunities for the youth.

Based on a survey done by Social Weather Stations (SWS), Philippine youth – people aged between 15 to 30 – make up more than one-third of the nation’s population and therefore play an important role in the future of the Philippines.

Maj. Gen Juancho Sabban, Philippine Marine Corps Commandant, meanwhile, has said that extremist groups, like the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, are quick to exploit poverty, lack of education, and minimal government services throughout the Sulu archipelago.

“Education and opportunities for development are the keys to lasting solutions to end the terrorism problem,” said Sabban, a former field commander on the islands of Basilan and Sulu.

Sulu ranks among the bottom five provinces in the country in terms of civic needs such as education, according to a Philippine Human Development Report cited in the Asia Times in July. In the same article, Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) commander, compared groups like Abu Sayyaf to a diseased tree, claiming that “military force can only go as far as cutting the branches and removing the leaves, but unless you eliminate the roots, new branches and leaves will grow with time.”

Velasco and fellow Marine commander, Lt. Col. Elias Juson Jr. of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT 4), attest that eliminating the roots of extremist ideologies starts with education.

“Through education, people will think differently, and instead of fighting, they will work to make their community better,” said Juson.

He added that while many of the civil military operations (CMO) that the Marines are conducting in Sulu include building new schools and renovating old ones, the Tausug Youth Training Camp strives to give young people a different kind of education.

“On the surface, it appears that the Marines of MBLT 6 are providing the same sort of skills that one would expect from any ordinary camp: outdoor skills such as hiking, rappelling, building rope bridges, and the like. A closer look shows that these activities are structured to impart vital tools for building a promising future. These tools include environmental stewardship, responsible citizenship, conflict resolution, tolerance, and cooperation,” said a JSOTF public affairs officer.

Through a partnership with the Confederation of Youth Organizations in Angono, which based in Rizal province, MBLT 6 has hosted school and student government organizations, the Sanguniang Kabataan and both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of the Philippines at the Tausug Youth Training Camp.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two Countries; One Marine

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Joshua Scott, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Republic of the Philippines – Marines throughout the world hold a special bond of brotherhood. One Marine in the southern Philippines was able to honor this brotherhood through recognizing another’s achievement of gaining the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Stephen P. Doherty was promoted August 2, by Philippine Marine Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, Commander, Western Mindanao Command (WMC), along with JSOTF-P Commander, Capt. Robert Gusentine.

“It’s a great and unique honor,” said Doherty. “Not a lot of Marines can say they were promoted by a Philippine Marine General, the most senior Philippine Marine.”

“We share the same values as Marines,” said Dolorfino. “Although we’re from different countries, we share the same code of honor and traditions that transcend cultural differences.”

“This promotion is more than just a new title and additional pay,” said Dolorfino. “It is a reward for your demonstrated leadership and accomplishments. This promotion is about the new responsibility and authority the Marines have bestowed upon you.”

Doherty, a native of Minneapolis, Minn., enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1984, beginning his career as a Korean Cryptologic Linguist at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. Over the next twenty-six years, he served across a broad spectrum of assignments, from deployments to South Korea with 1st and 2nd Radio Battalions, to recruiting duty in Austin, Texas.

Other assignments included Electronic Warfare Chief and Intelligence Chief at Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group in Twenty-nine Palms and a 13-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Prior to coming to JSOTF-P, Doherty served 4 years in Okinawa, Japan, as Signals Intelligence Electronic Warfare Chief.

“In twenty-six years, I’ve been a few places,” he said.

The recent promotion ceremony added a new milestone to his long list of accomplishments.

“It’s an interesting conclusion to a career,” he said. “And I’m pretty thrilled with that.”

Doherty has had the pleasure of meeting Dolorfino once before.

“I met General Dolorfino prior, when he was Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps. His Sergeant Major is a mutual acquaintance of some of my very good friends here, so I’ve also had the opportunity to meet Sgt Maj. Edilberto Lustre, who is now the Sergeant Major of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

At the flag raising and promotion ceremony, Dolorfino expressed a higher meaning of the event.

“This ceremony signifies, not only our shared values in honoring our flag, but also the shared history of our governments working together.”

The promotion ceremony is a continuation of past award ceremonies conducted between WMC and JSOTF-P where more than 80 U.S. service members were presented the Philippine Military Civic Action Medal for their contribution to peace and stability in southern Mindanao.

After his six-month tour in the southern Philippines is concluded, Doherty plans to finish his career at Camp Lejune where a deployment to Afghanistan is on the horizon.

“It’s a great honor and privilege.”