It was raining so hard that day. My hands were getting shaky. I hated my Jungle Pack! I felt that it was ripping my back. My legs were burning, trembling as if crying to me and begging for rest. I didn’t mind. I was focused but my head seemed to split up. Damn again! There’s no time for self-pity. I looked at the faces of my teammates. They were so tired of walking. It’s been four months. We run, marched and walked in and out of Camp Tecson. Nevertheless, I could still sense their fighting spirit to finish the mission. They were just like me. The Panther inside their body was very much alive.
Finally, we’ve reached the objective and climbed the hill where we can conduct an OP operation after an early morning recon. It was the third day of our Field Training Exercise (FTX) “MUSANG”, the last FTX before we could finally proceed to Combat Maneuver. We’re getting nearer to our main objective, Scout Ranger’s final phase, the Test Mission.
We finally conducted OP in a secured place. After a while, I planned to conduct a leader’s recon. I was about to give instructions to the recon party when I observed that something was bothering our Ranger Instructor (RI). I postponed the mission. I thought that there must be a problem in Manila since there were several destabilization efforts happened just months ago. Countless possibilities were floating inside my head. I looked again to our RI. Still, he was silent but anxious. He told us to pack-up and prepare to move out. We just followed his instruction but my mind was still floating. “This is really strange” I told myself. I thought that something big is really going to happen.
My team and the rest of the platoon linked-up somewhere in the vicinity of northern part of San Miguel, Bulacan. It was raining cats and dogs. What else was new? It was early September of 2006. Rainy season’s vicious months.
Hours later, the rest of the class arrived. Out strength was around 80 heads out of the original 130 SR candidates four months ago. There were 12 officers in the class and three of them were my classmates “Mistah” in the Academy. Many candidates didn’t survive for the past months. I’m so glad I made it that far. Finally, the RIs have arrived together with our Course Director (CD). They brought the news that we’ve been waiting for.
“Rangers! Your FTX Musang has ended today!” Senior Tac shouted.
I couldn’t hardly hear his voice because of the hard rain and thunderstorms. Damn it! My legs were still shaking. “There will be a sudden change in this course. You are going to proceed immediately to your Test Mission!” he added.
What the f#@$%k! It was the first time in the history of the Scout Ranger Training School! Excitement was flowing inside my veins. I could feel it. Slowly, anxiety is increasing as much as excitement. We were almost two months advance than any other classes. There must be a serious reason behind this.
“You are going to Jolo, Sulu three days from now. Start preparing. Withdraw everything you can carry: ammo, grenades, radios, everything! Withdraw 90 RR Bazookas and designate strong men to handle it. Gentlemen, we were instructed to do this for the sake of our fallen comrades. Some of our brothers were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf led by Janjalani and Kumander Radulan. The Regiment Commander will not tolerate this incident. We will avenge their death. You will be the main effort of this campaign. Don’t worry, I will accompany you, I will lead you to battle.” CD said calmly.
Incidentally, our class name is called VENDETTA.
(To be continued )