RELEASE NUMBER: 130206-02
DATE POSTED: FEBRUARY 6, 2013
97th Civil Affairs Battalion Soldiers receive Philippines military awards
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Feb. 6, 2013) - “What we knew then was to carry out orders for month-long, search-and-destroy operations,” said Brig. Gen. Cesar Yano, now the defense attaché at the Philippines Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“My memory is still fresh, as I recall my first three years as a lieutenant serving as a ranger in Sulu Islands,” Yano said, as he remarked on how counter-insurgency operations in Mindanao have changed over the past decades.
Yano was speaking at a ceremony on January 24 to honor 18 commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) Charlie Company who were receiving the Armed Forces of the Philippines Military Civic-Action Medal and Civil Military Operations Badge.
“There were very minimal activities in improving people’s lives,” Yano continued. “I saw then how impoverished were the areas, including their constituents. After many years…we learned our hard lessons—that it cannot simply be done that way. From there, we started talking about civil military operations, capacity building, empowerment…our Bayanihan, or shoulder-to-shoulder, and the whole-of-nation approach.”
In welcoming the awardees and guests to the ceremony at John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, 97th Civil Affairs Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Daniel Laseria explained how U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, and his battalion have continually deployed to the region as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.
“The combined efforts of JSOTF-P, together with the Philippines national police and military forces over the past 11 years have resulted in significant degradation of trans-national and locally inspired terrorist groups such as Jamal Islamia and Abu Sayaf.... and have created an environment in the southern Philippines largely inhospitable to their activities,” Laseria said.
“Your efforts, Charlie Company, and those of the Civil Affair Soldiers who have gone before and who have followed you, have contributed immensely to this mission’s success. Your work in conjunction with our trusted allies and partners within the Philippines security forces have directly contributed to building, and now refining a Civil Affairs capacity and capability within the Armed Forces of the Philippines…that have now had, for quite some time, the impressive capability to plan, resource and conduct independent civic action programs and civil affairs operations in great effect.”
Yano, who had come to Fort Bragg to present the awards, noted how he is personally affected by the work of the battalion’s Civil Affairs Soldiers. Yano will be returning to Mindanao where he grew up, to become a farmer after retiring later this year after more than 33 years of active military service.
“I was just there in Mindanao to celebrate the New Year’s,” Yano said. “And frankly, my brother Mindanaoans are truly grateful of your contributions to their welfare…I hope to see you in Mindanao soon. May the Special Operations tribe increase! Hooah!”
“By, Through and With”
In an interview after the ceremony, Charlie Company’s First Sergeant Brian Dalton said his most powerful impressions of this past deployment was teaching a Civil Affairs block of instruction at their NCO academy in Manila.
Dalton explained that while his Philippine army counterparts in Mindanao had specialized training in working with civilian populations, their “U-7” military specialty encompassed a range of activities involving public affairs, psychological operations, military information support operations, as well as civil affairs.
“I believe I was the first NCO that got to go work at their NCO academy and was able to really make a big change. I think it was like a wild fire, it caught on fast.”
In recent years, devastating tropical storms and typhoons in Mindanao have killed hundreds and left thousands homeless. Dalton keyed in on how Civil Affairs can play a major role in disaster mitigation planning and recovery. “They got a good grasp on what they’re dealing with in disaster management-- how it works, understanding what to look for, and how to engage the population, and also dealing with conflict and with international organizations.
“The feedback that we received from the officers was, ‘Wow, this is what we want. We want this for our NCOs.’ And you have the NCO’s saying, ‘We want to be able to do this. This is great, I want more.’ They walked out of there with the mentality that the sky has no limits…and that is what we exactly wanted to do.”
Another ceremony awardee, who was deployed four times to the Philippines since 2008 as a medical NCO, also felt it was different this time. “We’ve spent the last two, three years bridging those gaps between the non-governmental organizations and the Filipinos. The relationships [with the NGO’s] were there, but there wasn’t any headway. But we kept nudging them. It’s like Velcro, once the Velcro sticks, it’s hard to take them apart. We were able now to do a good job of using no U.S. military funds on many projects.”
“It wasn’t anything that we did, but to influence them, push them in the right direction. It was like the Civil Affairs term that we use: ‘By, through, and with.’”