how the world sees america

Filipino Colonel to America: Reinforcements Welcome

Lorenzo-Batallion.jpg
LtCol Pablo Lorenzo leads his 35th Batallion.

One thousand Moro National Liberation Front rebels encircled 180 of Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Lorenzo's infantrymen in the coconut groves outside Panamao, a small town in the predominantly Muslim south of the Philippines. It was February 6, 2005, and the separatist Islamic rebels violated their peace agreement, firing down on Lorenzo and his men with mortars, machine guns, and 90-millimeter recoilless rifles.

Reinforcements from the Philippines Marines were ambushed in the adjacent town of Patikul by fighters from Abu Sayyaf, a group connected with al-Qaeda that is increasingly considered simply a racketeering outfit. Air support was spread thin. So Lorenzo and his men had to wait out their attackers in trenches and foxholes.

Sound familiar? asks Lorenzo, now on a break in Manila. He says Americans in Iraq can learn from the lessons of the the Philippine military’s three decades of experience fighting insurgency on its islands. And he believes U.S. military involvement in the Philippines is essential to professionalizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), providing humanitarian assistance to the Muslim south, and hopefully ending the Islamic insurgency here.

Throughout the two-day siege, Lorenzo's men successfully held off wave after wave of rebel advances, suffering only twelve serious casualties and one death, and killing at least eighteen rebels. But their success had more to do with the battalion's strong location and tenacity than any technological advantage. In fact, the rebels wore the exact same camouflage uniforms as the Filipino Army, and bore the same guns.

Lorenzo’s real technological advantage didn't arrive until almost a year after this attack, when a U.S. Army ‘Liason and Coordination Element' embedded fifteen Special Forces members into Lorenzo's unit. The Americans brought surveillance and intelligence support, along with increased funds for humanitarian aid.

But with increased U.S. military presence came political controversy. Picking up on a long tradition of anti-U.S.-military statements that harkens back to the country’s colonial legacy, Filipino nationalists in Congress warned that America’s increased military role post-9/11 threatened their sovereignty. And Muslim communities down south were skeptical of U.S. intentions. So Lorenzo had to work hard to justify his support for the Americans in his unit.

Lorenzo has had a long history of positive experiences with the United States Armed Forces. At the Military Academy in Baguio City, which he joined at age seventeen in 1981, “All our field manuals for operations were from the U.S.; our teachers looked up to the U.S. military; so did we.” Lorenzo even watched Hollywood combat movies admiringly, critiquing their tactics with friends over meals.

In 1999, the Filipino military sent Lorenzo to a selective seven-month “U.S. International Military Education and Training Program” at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was one of fifteen foreign officers to attend, along with three hundred Americans. That’s when the American military machine he’d heard so much about proved its mettle.

A non-commissioned officer (NCO) greeted Lorenzo at the airport. He was “authoritative, firm and efficient,” recalls Lorenzo. In the Philippines, “Our NCOs don’t usually have that kind of exposure or confidence.”

“Our army here is very much officer-driven. We cannot [always] rely on the enlisted in terms of their supervising others…[or] letting them make their own innovations at their respective levels with smaller units.” But the American force is more “NCO-driven.” This is a testament to its leadership training and professionalism. “I envy it,” he says, “the way it frees up officers to deal with big-picture,” strategic decisions.

Lorenzo-American.jpg
Lorenzo, an American, and a local work together.

But U.S.-Philippine military engagement is not a one-way street, Lorenzo insists. “We are fighting a war here that pits Filipinos against Filipinos,” which cannot rely on military might alone. To increase the support of locals, “We’ve developed strong Civil-Military Operations,” he says, like building roads and providing medical care. These projects help isolate radicals and contain insurgencies.

“There is no doubt the Americans are learning from us, too,” he says, by observing "our efforts to increase local support in contested areas" with humanitarian aid programs.

The medical, educational and governmental support programs also helped Lorenzo sell the U.S. presence to the predominantly Muslim Sulu province. He went door-to-door in rural villages, highlighting joint U.S.-Filipino work.

"The Americans helped rebuild a mosque. They worked with Filipino troops and villagers, stimulating the economy by buying local goods. So communities felt ownership,” says Lorenzo. "And the populace was star-struck because they came into close contact with Americans for the first time. All this helped temper the anti-Americanism,” he says.

But most importantly for Lorenzo, decreased anti-American sentiment allowed the U.S. military to stay here longer, professionalizing his forces and providing needed aid in contested communities. "It was a virtuous circle."

"That's why I am very optimistic about the U.S.-Philippine military partnership," he says. "Together we can finally end this insurgency."

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Comments (26)

DANILO GOMEZ:

Robert, the army units fighting in the south ( Mindanao) are composed mostly of Christians... they don't even come close to 40% as claimed by Amar... Sulu is predominatly Muslim, it's Police force is Muslim but not the Army. Several years back, the Muslim Police Force was disbanded when it sided with Muslim rioters against the Philippine Marines in the area.

Amar, you may want to check on the details... very interesting story , I assure you.

Marty North:

The hypocrisy of mimicking / hating the USA, the world's number-one, most generous nation, seems to be without bounds.

When it comes to hating nations, it is easy to think of at least a half-dozen or more which deserve that sentiment a hundred times more than the USA, and so can anyone who shoves pride, envy, and jealousy out of the way.

It's easy to 'get on the bandwagon' of popular world opinion, spew hatred, burn the flag, and receive the plaudits of the crowd.

To hell with the hate crowd, I'll stick with the USA, and this, I write as a Canadian citizen, thankful that I don't have China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea for a next-door-neighbour!

Angelica Lorenzo:

I'm proud to call
Pablo Lorenzo my father. (:

My hero.
and My everlastingly father.

Angelica Lorenzo:

I'm proud to call
Pablo Lorenzo my father. (:

My hero.
and My everlastingly father.

Lam Ang:

I guess WaPo cut your travel plans because we didn't hear anything of your trip from Laoag City.

The north is pretty much the Ireland of the Philippines, not much grows up there which caused the massive migration of Ilocanos to Hawaii and America and beyond.

It is ironic that your posts from the Philippines potrays the impact of the American occupation - from the Eurasians left by servicemen to mail-to-order brides for geriatric Floridans.

The omission of the northerly trip has left out one of the biggest contribution of the Filipinos to America, which was to provide manpower to the pineapple plantations in Hawaii.

Robert Fulton:

Amar:
With regard to your question about my opinion on the USAID GEM project: I think such aid is always a good idea in that it makes life more bearable for common people. But, without meaning to sound cynical, my opinion is that it and many such other civic action and aid programs by the U.S. are helpful but largely irrelevent to the real problem, which is a long-standing general dispute over who wields power and how. There appears to be a continuing lack of any progress towards a meaningful political settlement between the GRP and the greater Muslim community, not just the more active and vocal separatist movements.Both sides have been and still appear to be prisoners of a long,fratricidal history. The American government thought they could solve it in 1907 with Krags and schoolbooks. The could not. Now in 2007 they believe M-16's (for the AFP) and more schoolbooks are still the answer.It was after all, an American, not a Filipino nor Moro decision that put the two together in one country under one central government in 1914. Having helped cause the problem, the US has a certain moral obligation to help find a positive way of fixing it. But the almost obsessive focus on Abu Sayyaf by U.S. policy makers, and their definition of the "problem" in the southern Philippines as almost solely one of "terrorism", has in my view badly clouded the issue and given a free pass to those who would like to continue avoiding any resolution. Instead of doling out military advisors, equipment, and a lot of indiscriminate loose cash, the US should be using its good offices to act as a prod and neutral third party to achieve such a settlement and hold out significant non-military assistance as an incentive, rather than taking sides.Cold-eyed scrutiny by journalists and others of the US government's role in the troubled southern islands is long overdue. That is my rant on the subject for what it is worth.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Robert, Thanks so much for the link. Indeed Glenda Gloria was a crucial contact for me looking at MILF and MNLF and I strongly agree with your recommendation. As to hope, I spent time with the GEM project (development run by USAID). They try very hard to put a positive spin on it all. What do you think about their work?

Tom, thanks so much man for reading and for this comment. It's a really good point -- the idea of participatory democracy as grafted from America actually causing problems here. The idea that the Philippines got the form from the U.S. of governance but not all the key institutions. Corruption is rife, and faith in government failing (which is why even bizarre coup attempts like the most recent one where a tank was driven into a hotel) are taken more seriously that such an ineffectual attempt perhaps should.

Alex,
I didn't know about Filforce. That sounds so interesting. Who are part of the group? How often do you re-enact real events? And what do you think about increased U.S. military involvement in the Philippines. Did the 'Nicole' Rape Case bother you? I'm coming to Olangapo today and am quite curious about this game and your views on this.
http://filforce.org/About/tabid/61/Default.aspx

Rick,
Thanks for the link!

Robert Fulton:

Amar:
I was in Sulu and Mindanao at the time the MNLF and the contemporary Muslim separatist movement, which also produced the MILF and eventually Abu Sayyaf was being formed,and have followed it ever since.Please excuse me if I am doubtful that it will be resolved anytime soon, but then who would have thought the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland would have made as much progress towards resolving their differences as has happened in the last few years.What has been lacking all along for the last 400 years has been, as in Northern Ireland, a true political solution.There are some good, reasoned comments on this site and for those who would like more information on the recent history of these movements since the 1960's up until 2000, I would recommend reading Under the Crescent Moon:Rebellion in Mindanao by Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria.For someone who would like to learn more about the American period in Moroland and the Moro Campaigns of the first two decades of the 20th century, they can go to my web site: www.morolandhistory.com.

Tom Wallach:

Great post Amar, really interesting. The Phillipines have always held a strange spot in US foreign policy, and your article, and a lot of the posts following, really highlight the delicacy of dealing with a people who respect and enjoy our culture, but still have a lingering resentment over our colonial misadventures.

As for all of those who like to spout off for the rights of the oppressed, etc., the Phillipines is a very tough place to determine who is oppressed etc, due to a) the differences in culture engendered by having oodles of small islands with semi-distinct populations and b) tons of outside immigration. What you have for the most part in these cases is groups that felt marginalized primarily by participatory democracy, because they had extremely different views than the mainstream and not enough people to make their rules stick.

Groups like the MNLF, as well as many others, have in the last 30 years made great strides at seeking redress through civil society, and the Phillipine goverment, as much as it struggles with corruption, has made efforts to allow for limited self-rule so long as it doesnt violate basic standards of civil rights and central oversight (ie no terrorist training camps). The break-away groups are often either foreigners or foreign supported, or groups resembling the FARC in Columbia, essentially hardened gangsters who long ago gave up their ideology for crime and cash flow.

For all that folks like Rick and others like to rail against the Foreign Policy of this nation (and I agree, it has been terrible recently) the biggest hinderance to the US has consistently been that we are just flat out ignorant. We constantly decide that one situation is exactly like another because it sort of looks like it, and ignore local differences, root causes, and all the other myriad variables that usually come back to bite us on the ass.

This is why journalists like Amar are so valuable. First person stories, from folks with nothing to gain or lose, provide an immeasurably powerful compass that can help us focus on what we are doing wrong, and what we are doing right. (not that they are universally correct themselves, but they provide a real, undiluted view of what folks are actually thinking in that country. And in the end, thats all that really matters)

Alex / H34DUP:

Great to see you are doing stories on the Philippine war on terror!

Here in Phila/NJ, I have been participating in Airsoft games (team-based tactical sport similar to paintball) based very closely on real developments out there, it's called the Balikatan series, and it's produced by an all-Filippine team called Filforce http://filforce.org/ ...some of the players are former AFP or diplomats. They really do a great job.

An example-- for Op: Basilan Fury (part 2 of 3 this year), the scenario was based in the Basilan mountains and an ASG compound. I was on a US-SF squad, teamed up with squads of Fil SF. Our objective was to breach their defenses, rescue a US hostage, and kill or capture suspected Al-Qaeda cohorts. It was hot as hell, and the radio chatter and distant screems in the Philippine language were very immersive.

At any rate, I digress from the topic of the article...

Rick Jones, Fredericksburg, VA:

Mak,

“Contrary to what Rick Jones seemed to be implying above, none of those groups even remotely resemble a broad-based colonial resistance movement. They are terrorists, kidnappers and opportunists.”

Amar,

“Hi Rick. In this case America is seen here as coming down on the side of the MNLF leaders that support the peace process, giving them substantial direct aid and agricultural inputs.”

Thanks for the replies and clarifications. I stand corrected. Thank goodness my government seems to be spending my tax dollars wisely for a change.

Here is some more info on how stupid our government can be when dealing with the Islamists when it sets its mind to it:

Here’s a good example of how AIPAC is not the only source of Israeli influence that misled us into the disastrous preemptive invasion of Iraq and continues to stoke our world wide War on Islam:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/12/opinion/12dowd.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

December 12, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist
The Dream Is Dead

By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

“The man crowned by Tommy Franks as “the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet” just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.

Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us into Iraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was the headliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute.

The room was packed as the former No. 3 at the Pentagon, previewing his upcoming book, “War and Decision,” conceded that the case could be made that “mistakes were made.” His former boss, Paul Wolfowitz, and the former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle sat supportively in the front row.”...

“In “Fiasco,” Tom Ricks wrote that Feith’s Pentagon office was dubbed the “black hole” of policy by generals watching him drop the ball...

Jay Garner, America’s first viceroy in Iraq, deemed him “incredibly dangerous” and said his “electrons aren’t connected.”

Feith’s disdain for diplomacy and his credo that weakness invites aggression were shaped, Ricks reported, by personal history: “Like Wolfowitz, Feith came from a family devastated by the Holocaust. His father lost both parents, three brothers, and four sisters to the Nazis.”...

What’s the answer to bin Laden? According to Feith, it was an attack on an unrelated dictator. He oversaw the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, whose mission was to amp up links between Saddam and Al Qaeda...

It defies reason, but there are still some who think the chuckleheads who orchestrated the Iraq misadventure have wisdom to impart.

The Pentagon neocons dumped Condi Rice out of the loop. Yet, according to Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff, Condi has now offered Wolfie a job. It wasn’t enough that he trashed Iraq and the World Bank. (He’s still larking around town with Shaha, the sweetheart he gave the sweetheart deal to.)
Condi wants Wolfie to advise her on nuclear proliferation and W.M.D. as part of a State Department panel that has access to highly classified intelligence.

Once you’ve helped distort W.M.D. intelligence to trick the country into war, shouldn’t you be banned for life from ever having another top-level government post concerning W.M.D.?”

humanrights:

Similar to other military officials trained in Fort Benning, the AFP (and other security forces) is also responsible for grave human rights abuses. The Philippines is now considered the second most dangerous country in the world for union organizing and the AFP is used to crack down on human rights activists. That's US tax dollars at work -- supporting global democracy or something!

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Sri, Nice to hear from you. The links between transnational terror and the Philippines are fascinating -- many tiny islands, some radical recruiters, and poverty in the far far south (not most of Mindano, but West and South in Sulu)...Abu Sayyef is an interesting case to discuss. And Ramzi of course!

sri-jaggu-gandhi:

Amar,
Excellent article. It reminds me of the time the Filipinos tried to warn the US after they caught Yousef Ramzi plotting to blow up 12 planes in mid-air simultaneously. However, in the case of Iraq, the US has altogether different priorities (oil resources comes to mind) that preclude adopting the Phillipines model.

sri-jaggu-gandhi

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Rick. In this case America is seen here as coming down on the side of the MNLF leaders that support the peace process, giving them substantial direct aid and agricultural inputs. USAID runs a program called GEM that distributes about 60 million US here, with a program directed at former MNLF combatants who have put down arms and picked up plows. From what they tell me, America was largely absent until the peace accords in 96 and once that happened, they stepped in for the good. It's the Philippines government they're wary of, not America. And the Islamic call to arms one might associate with Afgahnistani or Iraqi insurgencies is not really take quite as seriously here, at least not by Datu Dima Ambel (though some from MILF articulate it more loudly). But it would be a mistake to lump this insurgency in neatly with Islamic insurgencies elsewhere that for one reason or another take up the anti-American mantle. Here, you see greater similarity to Kashmir, where militants there are hopeful the U.S. can help broker a deal, and are relatively supportive of U.S. efforts to do so.

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/08/kashmir_freedom_struggle_america.html

Robert, his 35th batallion is no more than 500 troops. I'll try to get the exact number for you. He also said that 40% of his unit in Sulu, the southern region of the Philippines) was Muslim but did not specify exact origins.

Rory, he did not express concern over appeasement to me. He sees the best way of resolving this struggle is to have the government provide more self-rule (but certainly not a separate nation) to the communities here, to pull MNLF into the political fold, and to enhance their livelihoods by substantial aid work (which he is grateful to the U.S. for).

Amar C. Bakshi:

Mak, good clarification for Def on the MNLF. It's the Misuari break-away faction that LtCol Lorenzo fought in 2005. Indeed in the past year there have been virtually no major confrontations. Even the MILF is now negotiating with the government. I spoke briefly to their spokesperson - Mohamegher Iqbal and will continue the conversation soon. Here's something on Misuari:

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370262

Also, today was an interesting day where I spoke to Datu Dima Ambel, who is an important leader of the MNLF, and committed to the peace process. He said what Mak said: that the Abu Sayyef, MILF (which he says should return to the fold) and parts of MNLF (that are violent) should all embrace the peace process fully to put an end to poverty. He is vociferous in his praise of USAID development work, and supports U.S. troop presence in Mindanao.

He doesn't bring up pan-Islamic rhetoric except in the softest of ways, and says his is a struggle against mistreatment and poverty, and that he'll take the help he can get. Interesting man. More to come.

As to Def's point on long struggles. This is true that there has been insurgencies for a long time, but against different colonial administrations. I was referring primarily to insurgencies faced, in a major way, by the Philippines state. But you are right to pull the timetable back too.

MAK:

Def,

You're only partially right, I believe. The MILF did split from the MNLF, but that was back in the late 1970s. The group in 2005 that launched attacks against the AFP was considered the "breakaway MNLF", who were a small group led by a former MNLF leader unhappy with implementation of the 1996 peace agreement. Some of them were also linked up with Abu Sayyaf Group members, at least on Jolo island.

On the bright side, most of the "MNLF breakaway group" has been placated since 2005 and the MILF and Philippines Govt. appear to finally be approaching a settlement. Following a potential Philippine Govt.-MILF peace deal the only Islamic separatist groups still fighting the AFP would be the marginilized remnants of the "MNLF breakaway group", the Abu Sayyaf and a handfull of foreign Jemmah Islamiyah operatives in the Philippines. Contrary to what Rick Jones seemed to be implying above, none of those groups even remotely resemble a broad-based colonial resistance movement. They are terrorists, kidnappers and opportunists.

def:

Amar,

Please check your facts when discussing Philippine history and politics. The MNLF made peace with the RP government over a decade ago. Radical members of the MNLF broke off and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MILF. Subsequent peace talks between them and the RP government have been unsuccessful. The attack in 2005 that you discussed was by the MILF not the MNLF.

Also, you mentioned that the AFP have fought an insurgency for thirty years in the southern islands and the US could learn from them. The US military, AFP, and you should review the history of US colonial fighting in the southern islands in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Plus, a review of Spanish colonial history in the southern island would be relevant.

Rick Jones, Fredericksburg, VA:

Our problem is grounded in our ill advised War on Islam, and motivated primarily by the Neocon Israeli lobby’s (AIPAC) control of our government.

Here is an article that shows what we are up against. It shows how Barack Obama executed his abrupt flip flop on Palestinian support when he began his campaign for a US Senate seat from Illinois:

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6619.shtml

How Barack Obama learned to love Israel

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 4 March 2007

...“In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”…

…“But Obama's gradual shift into the AIPAC camp had begun as early as 2002 as he planned his move from small time Illinois politics to the national scene. In 2003, Forward reported on how he had "been courting the pro-Israel constituency." He co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state of Illinois to lend money to the Israeli government. Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker -- now his national campaign finance chair -- scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. (The Hyatt Regency hotel on Mount Scopus was built on land forcibly expropriated from Palestinian owners after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967). He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors.”…

…“If disappointing, given his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.”…

“Only if enough people know what Obama and his competitors stand for, and organize to compel them to pay attention to their concerns can there be any hope of altering the disastrous course of US policy in the Middle East. It is at best a very long-term project that cannot substitute for support for the growing campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions needed to hold Israel accountable for its escalating violence and solidifying apartheid.”

It is clear to me that our only hope for an honest government is campaign finance reform with total taxpayer financing of political campaigns. All lobbying must be totally banned.

Rick Jones, Fredericksburg, VA:

From the link provided in the article it appears that the MNLF is just another example of a people who are resisting colonialist domination. Just as in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it sounds to me like we are once again on the wrong side of the conflict. The Muslim insurgents just want to escape from Philippine control and lead their lives according to their Muslim heritage.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)

“The Philippines has had a long history of Moro insurgent movements dating back to Spanish rule. Resistance to colonization was especially strong among the Muslim population of southwestern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. With pride in their cultural heritage and a strong desire for independence, Moros fought Christian and foreign domination. Spanish control over the Moros was never complete, and the Muslim struggle carried over into the United States colonial era. The Moros earned a reputation as fierce fighters in combat against United States troops. Following independence, Filipino Muslims continued to resist Manila's rule, leading to widespread conflict in the 1970s.”…

Tom Miller:

Thanks for an interesting post with a view of America that is not generally seen or heard. What is important about this account from LTC Lorenzo is that he is in the middle of the action, away from the sometimes petty and ill-informed prejudices of the politicians, so-called world leaders, and press.

He is a military man and understands the importance of his military mission but he also appreciates the importance of communication and help for those trapped in poverty and mis-used by the belligerant.

I'll read more about the MNLF problem in the Philippines as a result of the post. Thanks and good luck to LTC Lorenzo.

Ben Serrano, Journalist from Caraga Region:

Amar, come visit me here in Butuan City. You may have interest on the Chinese ore traders invasion in Caraga Region searching precious stones and mineral ores like copper, nickel, manganese and others.

Robert Fulton:

How large is the 35th Batallion? How many of its soldiers and officers are Muslims? From which groups do they come, Tausug, Maranao, Maguindanao, etc.?

Rory:

Is Lt. Col. Lorenzo concerned about Filipino efforts to establish and expand a Muslim "homeland" in the southern islands? Isn't this just a blatant form of appeasement that will result in the Muslim militants just demanding more and more concessions on other trumped up excuses?

LtCol Pablo Lorenzo, Posted by Amar:

[The following is from LtCol Pablo Lorenzo. I'm posting it for him. He describes the battle in slightly greater detail than I had space for]:

The battle started with the MNLF attack on my 18-man detachment in far-away Panamao initially by about 300 heavily armed rebels on the night (about 10pm)of Feb. 6, 2005 while the rest of my battalion was conducting combat operations at the western side of Jolo island (about 45 kilometers away) as part of a Brigade-initiated operation. I shifted my force of about 160 men and linked up with the beleaguered detachment while under heavy enemy fire.The next two days would see us surrounded by about a thousand heavily armed rebels who took turns in assaulting our defensive positions. I suffered just 1 killed and 12 wounded (nobody seriously injured though) while the enemy suffered heavy casualties (at least 18 killed and scores wounded). We attacked and overrun their camp less than a week thereafter.

LtCol Pablo Lorenzo, Posted by Amar:

[The following is from LtCol Pablo Lorenzo. I'm posting it for him]:

When the US forces arrived about 9 months later [after the MNLF attack described above], my battalion wasn't immediately given the chance to work with a Liaison and Coordination Element (LCE - - usually a US Army Special Forces Team composed of an Army captain and about 12 to 15 enlisted men). But the other battalions were. Nevertheless, I took the initiative to have some of my soldiers sent to the other units to train with the American military although in a very limited way, given the circumstances.

It was another 4 months later that my battalion was given an LCE to live and work with us. Taking cue from my previous experiences with them and from what the other battalions were doing, I took full advantage of the opportunity for a number of reasons.

First, the humanitarian assistance that they brought (civil works, medical services, etc.) augured well with my civil-military operations action plan in my tactical area of responsibility. It gave me so much in terms of projects and activities to benefit the target populace and thus, facilitating popular support which is a very crucial element of our fight against terror in Mindanao. In the process also, it gave the US military a good reason to be there and be accepted by the people. So, the effect was good for both the US and Philippine military as well as the target beneficiaries who need these assistance very badly as can be seen in their localities.

Secondly, I saw a big opportunity to professionalize my unit, especially in terms of upgrading our skills on military tactics, marksmanship, leadership, combat life saver (medical), etc. Looking back at the many training activities and Subject Matter Expertise Exchanges (SMEEs) that we jointly conducted in my unit, I could say that the benefits are very substantial. I'm very grateful for this exposure and experience that my soldiers had with our US allies under the leadership of US Army Captain Kirk Brinker (and later, Catain Ty Blanchard). I just hope that they too learned some things from us.

Hence, you could see my optimism regarding this US-RP military partnership in Mindanao in the beginning up to the end of my stint as battalion commander.

Likewise, I exerted a lot of efforts to manage the negative aspects like the skepticism of many sectors of our society and the people, orienting/preparing our units and our soldiers to be inter-operable with the US forces, additional security measures that we had to adopt for our movements with the US forces, additional efforts that we have to put into our operational planning, and some other things that we have to consider. On the whole, I see that all these are worth the end state that we all wish for and that is peace and harmony among us all.

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