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Saturday, October 31, 2009

AFP and JSOTF-P Bring Smiles to Children’s Fun Day

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, in coordination with the chaplain teams at Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, celebrated the first Children’s Fun Day Oct. 29.

With help from the combined chaplain teams of the AFP and JSOTF-P, more than 450 children and adults took part in the festivities. Children of AFP service members and other government contractors spent the afternoon playing games such as duck-duck-goose, tug-of-war, football, and soccer.

“I had such a wonderful time playing with the children today,” said Master Sgt. Rose Gould, the chaplain assistant for JSOTF-P. “Their smiles brought me incredible amounts of joy and I was honored to help organize such an important event. I could tell that it meant a lot to these kids to have this time together,” she said.

The children’s fun day was an opportunity for JSOTF-P to demonstrate one of the Task Force’s primary roles, which is capacity building. The event was a joint project, planned by not only JSOTF-P, but the chaplains from WESTMINCOM and Naval Forces Western Mindanao.

“While it was a joy to see the children and their parents so happy and so thankful for the special day we provided for them, it continues to be especially gratifying to me to work with the dedicated, caring AFP chaplains stationed at WESTMINCOM,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Steven E. Thompson, the JSOTF-P chaplain.

The day was also a break from the children’s classes, as most came from nearby schools such as Immaculate Conception School and SouthCom Village Elementary School.

The celebration concluded with the singing of the Philippine National Anthem and afterwards, all of the children stayed behind to clean up the parade field.

“Our hope is that through this day of fun we can build relationships. This will help tell the children about God’s love and build unity in our military community,” said Capt. Carlito Buslon, the WESTMINCOM chaplain.

Friday, October 30, 2009

RP Agriculture Department, JSOTF-P sign agreement

By Lt Col Jerry Lobb, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

DAVAO, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture and the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines signed an agreement to share information and work together to improve agriculture-related, economic opportunities in Mindanao at a ceremony Oct 29.

Department of Agriculture Regional Executive Director Dr. Carlos Mendoza and Col. William Coultrup, JSOTF-P commander, signed the Administrative Procedural Agreement (APA).

“This agreement formalizes a relationship developed over several months between representatives of the Department of Agriculture and JSOTF-P civil affairs teams,” said Coultrup.

“Both organizations and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are working together to create agriculture-related economic opportunities. By offering profitable livelihoods, we hope to reduce poverty and create a more prosperous and peaceful environment in conflicted areas,” he said.

The APA commits the Department of Agriculture and JSOTF-P to share information and support each other’s efforts on humanitarian and civic action projects. Both organizations work in at-risk communities and can nominate communities for projects in poor or non-existent agricultural areas.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, presided over the ceremony held at Camp Panacan. Ferrer commented that this agreement is the first of its kind between JSOTF-P and a Philippine government organization and he expressed his appreciation for the cooperation of the two agencies.

“The Eastern Mindanao Command is grateful to both JSOTF-P and the Department of Agriculture-Mindanao Cluster. The APA on information sharing is a first for JSOTF-P and a Philippine government agency,” Ferrer said.

Two projects to establish fish ponds in Munai, Lanao del Notre and in Dato Piang, Maguindanao are in the planning phase as a result of this cooperation. The ponds were coordinated with the assistance of the JSOTF-P and the AFP, with funding from the DA and local government units.

These programs offer the people profitable livelihoods, which reduces poverty, and creates a more prosperous and peaceful environment in conflict-affected areas.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

3rd Civil Military Operations Company, JSOTF-P hold Zamboanga MEDCAPS

By Lt Col Jerry Lobb, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 3rd Civil Military Operations Company teamed up with the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines to conduct three Medical Civic Action Projects (MEDCAPs), providing medical and dental care to more than 1,300 patients Oct. 27-29.

The three events were held in the barangays (communities) of Campo Islam, (Oct 27), Baliwasan (Oct 28) and Santa Barbara (Oct 29).

“Being able to be part of this event was fantastic. It’s a pretty big feeling of pride to do what we’re doing here,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st class Mike Davis.

The staff of the 3rd CMOC and their students attending SALA’AM Operators Course Class 07-09 organized the MEDCAPs as a training exercise, providing hands-on experience for those attending the course.

Following graduation, the students will be assigned to units where they will be organizing and conducting similar events.In addition to the 3rd CMOC and JSOTF-P, several other military and community organizations contributed medical supplies, food, clothing and personnel to support the event. Some of those organizations include: Western Mindanao Command, Marine Forces South, Camp Navarro General Hospital, the National Food Authority, Department of Health, Zamboanga City Health Office, The Department of Social Works and Development and the Coca-Cola Bottlers, Philippines Incorporated.

“I want the students to learn how to assist and win the support of the people in the communities where they will be assigned,” said Capt. Jomar Daquioag, commander of the 3rd CMOC. “We want the people in the barangays to understand the government is here to help improve their communities,” he said.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeremy West participated in the first two events at Campo Islam and Baliwasan. West estimated he treated about 100 patients each day for ailments from coughs and skin problems to numerous patients with high blood pressure and diabetes.

“It is definitely a rewarding experience to be able to help these people,” he said.

Maj. Matt Marbella, Civil Affairs Company Commander for JSOTF-P was also proud to be part of the event.

“It was pleasures seeing the SALA’AM Company improve each day,” said Marbella. “We’re thankful they included us as part of their events. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to working with them in the field.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AFP Seabees, JSOTF-P Celebrate New Road Construction Project

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

BASILAN, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in partnership with Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, celebrated the construction of the Tipo-Tipo-Sungkayot-Matata road during a ground-breaking ceremony Oct. 28.

The project is part of a collaborative relationship, combining resources from several military services, including the AFP’s National Development Support Command, First General Construction Company and JSOTF-P.

“I am so happy that this road will be rehabilitated and am grateful for the support of the Filipino and U.S. forces. We can now move our products closer to the shoreline and this will bring hope to this area,” said Hassim Jawil, a local resident.

Although JSOTF-P has partnered with AFP on a number of construction projects, this is first time JSOTF-P is providing the supplies for a road project with the AFP Navy Seabees doing the labor. Once completed, the road will connect the municipalities of Sumisip, Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan. The two previous projects were school constructions; also located in Sumisip.

“It’s great to work together with the AFP to bring development, goods and access to this area,” said U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Claypool, a JSOTF-P servicemember from Civil Affairs Team 734.

Last August, members of AFP’s Army’s 3rd Light Reaction Company, 61st Force Reconnaissance Company, Force Reconnaissance Battalion, Special Operations Platoon 10 and Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 reclaimed the area surrounding the road from the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militant organizations, paving the way for future development rojects.

Previously, residents were driven out of their homes and forced to move further north due to ASG and other terrorist entities, which set up training camps in the area.

Once built, the road will bring new infrastructure into the southwest region of Basilan and extend down to the coastline area for nine kilometers (5.58 miles). Checkpoints are planned throughout the road, provided by AFP Marines, allowing locals ease of mobility to safely relocate and move products and services. Additionally, the road will permit greater access for the AFP to counter terrorist activities.

With Hon. Jum J. Akbar, governor Basilan province, and Rear Adm. Alexander P. Pama, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, as guests of honor the celebration began with brief remarks from Pama, Akbar and the mayors of Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip.

“The strategic importance of this road cannot be over-emphasized,” said Pama. “This is not the first time that our forces and U.S. forces have worked together for humanitarian and engineering projects. We thank our brothers from the U.S. Armed Forces,” he said.

Hon. Ingatun Lukman G. Istaru, mayor of Tipo-Tipo, spoke of the problems in the area specifically that schools were previously only located along the main highway, denying those without access to the roads education and opportunities.

“The ASG is not born out of ideology, but frustration. When there are good roads, there are also good people,” said Istaru.

After the guest’s remarks, Akbar and Pama reviewed the maps and blueprints of the road project and then placed them into a plastic capsule, burying them in front of the new road sign, marking the beginning of the road.

“It is traditional custom for [AFP Seabees] to place the maps and blueprint into the ground before starting any construction project,” said 2nd Lt. Beryl Charity T. Bacolol, an AFP Marine officer.

Bacolol also spoke of the significance of the road for the AFP

“This road will enable us to do our operations and give us faster recovery of our wounded if something should happen,” she said.

Immediately after the celebration, AFP Seabees started working on the road, symbolizing a new chapter of infrastructure projects which promises to bring to the community peace and prosperity.

“We are just so happy the militaries here are supporting the civilians in our area for the sake of our businesses and cultural plans throughout the Basilan region,” said Basad Iklaman, a resident of the Barangay (community) of Sundkat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

AFP, Lions Club and JSOTF-P Partner for MEDCAP

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

COTABATO CITY, Republic of the Philippines – Combining resources and skills from multiple organizations, service members assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines assisted with a Medical Civic Action Project in Cotabato City Oct. 24.

The MEDCAP was organized by Armed Forces of the Philippines members from Tactical Operations Group 12, 3rd Air Division. Taking place at the Awang Elementary School in Barangay Lomboy, this was the first time the Philippine Air Force led a MEDCAP in Central Mindanao.

“The Philippine air force did a terrific job running this MEDCAP,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Fisher, the team sergeant from Civil Affairs Team 735. “They used their outside resources very well and that is what made the event so successful.”

Treating more than 400 patients, doctors from AFP’s 6th Infantry (KAMPILAN) Division, JSOTF-P and the Cotabato Metro Lions Club joined physicians from five other community-based organizations.

Throughout the day, doctors performed medical check-ups and treated minor ailments, ranging from rashes, colds, high blood pressure and gave out vitamin treatments. Additionally, local dentists performed tooth extractions for more than 100 patients.

Lions Club President Rex M. Abdon expressed his appreciation for helping the people of Cotabato City and highlighted the role of the Lions Club.

“Our mission is to serve the people and we are here to do that. We are so happy to be working with the members of the Filipino and U.S. Forces. This is a very important event and we look forward to working with them on future projects. The Americans here are so helpful and we thank you so much for coming out here today,” he said.

Participating in the event were JSOTF-P’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) medic and surgeon, who spent the day treating patients and handing out prescriptions.
Additionally, JSOTF-P Task Force members donated 20boxes of medications and provided 10 boxes of clothing.

The clothing was donated by a family of a JSOTF-P medic. Knowing that there might be an opportunity to help the Filipino people, his grandmother, mother, aunt and family friends shipped eight large boxes of vitamins and clothing, including brand new dresses, shirts, pants, and socks.

“Basically, I told them some of the things the kids here might need and everyone in my family came together to donate the items,” said the medic. “It’s great my family back in the U.S. could also contribute to this MEDCAP and help the people of Central Mindanao,” he said.

To pass the time waiting to see the doctors, patients honed their skills at karaoke. Sponsored by McDonalds Cotabato City, the people sang, danced and played games. Ronald McDonald also greeted the guests, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

This was the second medical mission CAT 735, the JSOTF-P surgeon and medics have joined with AFP this week. On Oct. 20, the AFP’s 6th Infantry led a MECAP which resulted in the treatment of 600 patients outside Camp Siongco.

“This is the first time the American people have come here to this place and we are just so glad and thankful for this occasion. It was such a good job of everyone coming together to help the people here,” said Fernando M. Bayon, principal, Awang Elementary School.

At the request of the Philippine government, JSOTF-P works with the AFP forces on a variety of civil and humanitarian projects, constructing roads, clinics, schools and delivering food and other needed supplies for the people of Mindanao and surrounding areas.

JSOTF-P Assists PNP with Live Fire Demonstration

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Republic of the Philippines – Members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Explosive Ordnance Disposal Task Unit (JSOTF-P EOD) joined Philippine National Police Forces (PNP) for a live-fire demonstration of Improvised Explosive Device detonation Oct 20.

The training, held at Police Regional Office Nine headquarters in Zamboanga City, was designed to teach first responders from PNP’s Explosive Incident Reaction Team what to do if they come across a suspected Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

“We are so glad that the first responders are here to receive this training. This gives them an overview, an orientation, which is not taught in schools. Now they can go back to their respective units with this knowledge,” said Jonathan A. Nodado, a police officer from Regional Explosive Disposal and Detection Unit 9.Members of Zamboanga City Police Office Bomb Squad assisted JSOTF-P EOD members by constructing types of detonators for the explosives. Participants also observed ways IEDs are built and triggered.

During the demonstration, instructors also taught the teams how to create a shaped charge, which controls the direction of the blast, making sure the explosion is detonated without loss of life.

“Our objective as EOD technicians is to control when and where the IED will explode and to keep people from dying,” said the JSOTF-P EOD Task Unit officer-in-charge.

Many of these first responders are on the front line in the deterrence of IED activity in Zamboanga City.

“Since they are first to arrive on scene once an IED is detected, it is crucial they know exactly what steps to take. That is why this training is so important,” said the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class.

This was the second day JSOTF-P’s EOD Team worked with this Regional PNP office. The first day of training covered basic IED awareness and recognition such as types of IEDs, composition, ways to conceal IEDs, and how each explosive is designed for different purposes.

“The awareness training is so important because the first responders must know how to effectively manage a bomb scene and to minimize causalities upon discovery of an IED,” said JSOTF-P’s EOD OIC.

After the demonstration, participants received graduation certificates, signifying their increased awareness and understanding how to respond should they encounter an IED.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AFP and JSOTF-P Partner for IED Awareness Training in Basilan

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

BASILAN, Republic of the Philippines – Members of Joint Special Operations Task Force– Philippines (JSOTF-P) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Task Unit partnered with Armed Forces of the Philippines First General Construction Company to conduct Improvised Explosive Device awareness training Oct. 19 in Barangay Camp Uno, Lamitan.

Two EOD-qualified members of AFP Marine Battalion Landing Team-9 (MBLT9) served as instructors for the class along with JSOTF-P personnel. Although JSOTF-P regularly conducts EOD subject matter exchanges, this was the first time the joint team taught these AFP forces.

“It is very good that we have these exchanges and share this knowledge. It keeps our troops safe,” said 1st Lt. Meichor A. Gonzaludo, an officer with MBLT9.

Using a combination of classroom briefings and interactive demonstrations, instructors from MBLT9 and JSOTF-P taught 40 AFP Seabees and Marines basic Improvised Explosive Device (IED) awareness. The training covered types and purposes of IEDs, the physics and materials in the explosives, and steps to take if they suspect they have found an IED.

“We hope that this training will reduce the chances of injury and give them the tools they need to make the scene safe once they think they have found an IED,” said an Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class technician assigned to

Currently on Basilan, there are limited EOD assets available to respond to a suspected IED. IEDs are a common threat here, making this type of training imperative for these AFP forces.

The militant group Abu Sayyaf regularly uses IEDs as one of their tactics and often hides them to look like ordinary items, making detection difficult.

“Anything that looks suspicious could be an IED. There are no limits to concealment,” said the JSOTF-P EOD Task Unit OIC. “It could look like a make-up kit, a cigarette pack, or book but really it is a lethal device and it could kill you,” he said.

After the classroom portion, students were taken outside the AFP Marine base and given the chance to demonstrate what they learned using mock IEDs placed along the side of the road.

The training area was covered with high foliage and vegetation, similar to what the AFP teams can expect to encounter on patrols in the future. Simulated IEDs were hidden among trees, placed under sticks and leaves, and buried in the ground.

The students were divided up into six-man teams, searching the area for the devices. These exercises increased their detection skills and tested their knowledge on what actions to take when finding and reporting an IED.

“Without the knowledge of what to do when encountering an IED, the terrorist wins, not the AFP,” said the Explosive Ordnance 2nd Class technician. “If they follow these guidelines, it will keep them alive.”

Later, the students were given feedback on the field exercise and received certificates of completion with an increased understanding of what to do if they encounter an IED in the future.

“Our Marines and Navy Seabees now know how to recognize IEDs. Additionally, they now have some knowledge of homemade bombs being used by lawless elements. They will take this training home with them and share it with others,” said Lt. Aldrin Fancis V. Cadisal, a member of the Philippines EOD Team and commanding officer of 1GCC.

At the request of the Philippine government, JSOTF-P forces are temporary deployed to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in defeating terrorism, partnering in humanitarian projects, performing information exchanges and conducting civil military engagement projects.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

JSOTF-P Group Photo - Oct. 2009

Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Group Photo
October 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

JSOTF-P Partners with PECOJON for Photojournalism Workshop

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Republic of the Philippines – A naval officer assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines partnered with representatives from the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, the PhilSouth Angle newspaper, and Voice of Mindanao to hold a workshop for local high school students at Western Mindanao Command Oct. 9.

Lt. Lara Bollinger, JSOTF-P deputy public affairs officer, taught photojournalism basics and captioning to 15 students from Western Mindanao State University High School and Arturo Eustaquio Memorial Science High School.

“What I knew before about photography was just taking pictures for fun, but this seminar really taught me how to make a photo look good,” said Luz Silver R. Somblingo, a student from AEMSHS.

Using photos from recent JSOTF-P humanitarian assistance projects, Bollinger demonstrated the importance of storytelling through images and how using different camera settings such as shutter speed, ISO, and aperture enhances a photo, creating the best quality picture.

Course topics covered basic camera settings, including lighting, focus, zooming, and basic photo composition using a variety of camera angles, framing, and capturing motion and depth of field.

Bollinger also explained the basics of caption writing and gave students the opportunity to practice their skills at accurately and briefly describing print-worthy photos.

“I was honored to have the opportunity to teach these bright young students,” said Bollinger. “They are the future of journalism in the Philippines, and I hope that that the knowledge I shared with them will give them the building blocks for a successful path as photojournalists.”

One of JSOTF-P’s primary goals is to benefit local communities through capacity building and information sharing. During the seminar, Bollinger utilized skills she developed working in JSOTF-P’s public relations team to share best practices with the students.

“Lara’s presentation brought a certain charisma and expertise to the seminar. The more we can bring in lecturers who are foreign-trained, the more we see students respond to the training favorably because it offers them some variety [of experience],” said Jessica Pabellion, a trainer with PECOJON.

PECOJON brings together reporters, photographers, and other communication professionals with the goal of providing quality reporting of conflict, crisis and war. This organization regularly conducts training sessions to train future photojournalists to be skilled, ethical professionals.

This was the first time JSOTF-P assisted in training these students.

“I sincerely hope that JSOTF-P will have more opportunities to partner with local organizations for training sessions such as this one. This is an excellent way for us to give back to the community,” Bollinger said.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

AFP General, Local Officials Rededicate School and Health Clinic in Sumisip

By Lt. Col. Jerry Lobb Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines Public Affairs

BASILAN, Philippines- Members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines and local government officials rededicated an elementary school and a health clinic in Sumisip Oct. 3.

Brig. Gen. Eugenio N. Clemen, AFP 1st Marine Brigade Commander, joined Basilan Assemblyman Naser Asarul and Sumisip Mayor Haber Asarul in barangay Guion to rededicate the Oval Elementary School, burned down by the Abu Sayyaf Group March 28.

“Parents here are eager to send their kids back to school so they can learn,” said Asarul. He encouraged the students to finish their educations to prepare themselves to become the community leaders, teachers, and military leaders of the future.The AFP Seabees rebuilt the school under the direction of the National Development Support Command. Despite harassment by ASG elements, they were able to finish the school ahead of schedule and under their projected budget.

AFP Soldiers also delivered 150 desks and 50 text books donated by USAID to the new school, and provided security for the event.

JSOTF-P provided approximately 100000 pesos worth of construction materials. This was the second project in the region completed and coordinated by NADESCOM and JSOTF-P. The first project was Irelley Elementary school, also burned down by the ASG.

“This school is a place my son and daughter can learn to read and write and help them so they can have a better future,” said a local mother who identified herself as Norina.

Following the school dedication, Clemen, Asarul and several other AFP officers traveled to barangay Mangal to dedicate a one-unit health station. AFP Soldiers also provided security as provincial health authorities treated local residents for minor health ailments.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Task Force Members Honor Fallen Soldiers during memorial ceremony

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Service members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and officials from the Armed Forces Philippines paid their final respects at a memorial ceremony Oct. 3, for two JSOTF-P Soldiers who lost their lives Sept. 29.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw and Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III died when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while conducting a resupply mission for a school construction project in the vicinity of Kagay Barangay on Jolo Island, southern Philippines.

An AFP Marine was also killed and three AFP Soldiers were wounded in the explosion.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey Tyer, JSOTF-P Deputy Commander, gave the opening remarks to nearly 150 people in attendance, emphasizing the important role of these fallen U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers.

“These were men who chose the path of the U.S. Special Forces warrior. Christopher Shaw and Jack Martin chose this path because it’s a worthwhile and honorable path,” said Tyer.

“It’s a path down which you see worlds and lives transformed, and from which you realize that individuals willing to sacrifice can make a huge difference,” he said.

After a short scripture reading, three Soldiers who worked side-by-side with Shaw and Martin took the opportunity to share some of their memories.

“Chris and Jack led the way in all aspects of this mission. Their sacrifices will not be forgotten,” said Shaw and Martin’s Company Sergeant Major.

Two of the Soldiers in their company spoke about the Soldiers to the teary-eyed audience, expressing their personal relationships and the impact of the loss.

“Those of you, who knew Chris, knew Chris had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life. He would give you the shirt off his back,” said a master sergeant who knew both of them well. “Chris was a great Soldier. He was a friend, a father, an uncle and brother.”

A staff sergeant who served with Martin, spoke of his sense of humor and contribution to the unit.

“Jack brought a real sense of joy to the team, through everything. You could be having the worst day ever and Jack would do things that would make everything alright. Jack was the best kind of Soldier,” said the staff sergeant.

The JSOTF-P Soldiers were from 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces (Airborne), headquartered in Fort Lewis, Wash.

After the ceremony, two photo plaques were added to a painted mural within the JSOTF-P headquarters compound, preserving the memory of the fallen Soldiers.

Ambassador Kenney expressed her condolences to the 3rd Battalion Soldiers and to 10 JSOTF-P service members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, who were working on the school construction project in Kagay, Jolo when the IED exploded.

“In the last few days, [Filipino] people here have literally jumped out of windows and corners to tell me how sorry they are and to say, ‘We know what you are doing for our country and we can’t believe you lost lives doing it,” she said. “You should know there is a Filipino nation behind you.”

At the request of the Philippine Government, JSOTF-P forces are temporarily deployed to support the Philippine Security Forces countering terrorism, sharing information and intelligence, participating in tactical training programs and working with the AFP on humanitarian assistance projects.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two Special Forces Soldiers killed in the southern Philippines

FORT BRAGG, N.C.(USASOC News Service, Oct. 1, 2009) – Two U.S. Special Forces Soldiers died when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device Sept. 29 on Jolo Island, Philippines.

The following Soldiers, both assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) headquartered at Fort Lewis, Wash. They were in the Philippines supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw, 37, a native of Natchez, Miss., was on his second deployment in support of OEF-P.

Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III, 26, was a native of Bethany, Okla. This was Martin’s first deployment in support of OEF-P; he was a veteran of Operation Iraq Freedom.

JSOTF-P, Red Cross distribute food to Ondoy victims

By Lieutenant Lara Bollinger Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines Public Affairs

MANILA, Philippines - Members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines joined USAID and Philippine National Red Cross distributed bags of food to victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy (known internationally as Ketsana) in metropolitan Manila Sept. 29.

JSOTF-P assisted in this interagency event, handing out 132 sacks of rice and 924 ration bags to 882 families (more than 4,000 affected people) in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City in an evacuation center that was set up at Diosdado Macapagal Elementary School. Five hundred of those families were displaced due to an electrical fire that burned down their homes one day after massive floods ravaged their barangay.

“Our people needed very much the help of the U.S. and Red Cross,” said Dick Banega, Tatalon Barangay Chairman.

The distribution was organized by USAID and JSOTF-P with assistance from the PNRC, Philippine National Police, and the Local Government Unit. Events centered around the communities feeding program, and personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were there cooking for the evacuees.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Philippine Senator Richard Gordon were on hand to speak to the community, joining JSOTF-P personnel, USAID, and U.S. Embassy marine guards to hand out food.

“Our people are very happy to see US Soldiers coming over and helping us. They are just amazed that there are Americans helping. That’s wonderful,” Banega said.

JSOTF-P civil affairs teams and USAID personnel conducted assessments Sept. 28 to determine which barangays needed urgent assistance. Tatalon was selected after teams visited four affected barangays around Manila.

“We determined that this was the best spot because it has a large population and is more accessible by our vehicles. Out of all the affected areas, Tatalon was the most neglected because other worse-hit areas received aid first,” said Capt. Al De Veyra, JSOTF-P civil military liaison to USAID.

Trash and mud lined the streets of Tatalon, overwhelming the community in clean-up efforts and clogging traffic. The lingering stench brought in by the flood waters was enhanced by the stagnant heat.

“Of the areas we visited, two were already on the road to recovery, receiving government assistance. The other barangay was very remote and was also earmarked for government assistance. But Tatalon was in a heavily-trafficked urban area, and had not received any aid yet,” he said.

This event was part of JSOTF-P’s overall relief efforts in the wake of Ondoy. U.S. Navy Special Boat teams, SEALs, and medical personnel attached to JSOTF-P rescued 52 people from flooded-out houses and delivered food to flood victims in Cainta, Metro Manila Sept. 27.