By MC1 Cassandra Thompson, JSOTF-P Public Affairs Office
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (June 7, 2011) - The Honorable John McHugh, U.S. Secretary of the Army, visited Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) June 7, to discuss strategic Philippine/US partnerships, and the importance of the “3Ds approach” – diplomacy, development, and defense –to combating terrorism, and promoting peace and stability, in southern Mindanao.
McHugh began his two-day trip to the Philippines in Manila, where he met with Philippine Undersecretary of Defense Affairs Honorio Azcueta. In Zamboanga, he spoke with AFP senior officials including Maj. Gen. Renato Sanchez, Commander, AFP 3rd Air Division, and Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, WESMINCOM Commander. He commended the AFP’s internal peace and security plan “Bayanihan,” and assured the Philippine defense forces of the U.S. Army’s continued support.
“We in the United States Army are honored to help support this very important effort to combat terrorism and to make this region even safer and a better place for all the great people who live here and call this wonderful part of the world home,” said McHugh. “This partnership in combating terrorism is as critical to the U.S. as it is to the Filipino people. We fully intend to work with, partner and support this effort as we try to bring a stronger sense of security and stability here in Mindanao.”
Ferrer, who assumed command of WESMINCOM in Nov. 2010, highlighted the successes the combined effort between JSOTF-P and Philippine security forces has brought just in the last six months since the new internal peace and security plan was implemented.
“So far during my stay here, we have improved our coordination and partnership,” said Ferrer. “We have jointly developed strategies to address terrorism in this part of the world.”
The 3D strategy includes opportunities to synchronize security and development efforts to achieve transformative change, as expounded on by Gloria Steele, mission director for the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Philippines, who was also on hand to brief McHugh.
JSOTF-P is made up of approximately 600 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Department of Defense civilians and contractors. At the invitation of the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines, they are temporarily deployed to the Philippines in a strictly non-combat role to support and share information with the AFP to fight terrorism, develop the capacity of local citizens, and demonstrate good governance through humanitarian projects in southern Mindanao.
McHugh’s time with JSOTF-P staff was divided between Camp Navarro in Zamboanga, where he had lunch with a group of soldiers, and visits to AFP outstations on the island of Jolo that allowed him a comprehensive look at AFP operations that are supported by JSOTF-P.
“I was proud and honored that the Secretary of the Army chose to visit us in the Philippines,” said Staff Sgt. James Crabb, who interacted with McHugh during lunch. “He gave me a coin, and thanked me for my service. It was a memorable deployment experience.”
McHugh also addressed a gathering of JSOTF-P service members in Jolo, acknowledging the sacrifices they make every day for a good cause, and acting as promotion officer during an impromptu ceremony for an Army Special Forces Soldier who had recently been promoted.