“Are we prepared to fight the ABUs? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What’s the terrain of Jolo looks like? What’s their firepower?” these were the questions reverberated inside my head. For several months, we anticipated to fight the NPAs. Most of us didn’t have any idea how it is to fight an enemy like these Abu savages. Besides, we were trained in guerrilla tactics designed for a small unit operation.
NPAs are proficient in hit and run tactics. They seldom engage the government troops in a fierce combat. However, they also conduct offensive operations if they are superior in combat power considering their firepower, maneuver, leadership, and protection. That’s the only time they wanted a decisive battle. They have to preserve their dwindling strength so their Cadres make sure that everything is well-planned, calculated and executed. NPAs are hard to detect. They are not static. They are highly mobile. That’s the reason why it’s so effective to utilize small units like team or section to hunt down NPAs. The Scout Ranger team is almost undetected especially during the dark and they are far more superior in skill and firepower compared to the NPAs. Indeed, the Scout Rangers are their worst nightmare.
On the other hand, Abu Sayyaf is different from the NPAs in several aspects. The ABUs also have powerful weapons like the government troops. Blame it on the culture of firearms in Mindanao. Moreover, they have the passion to fight and kill their enemies. They believe that their cause is just and holy. That’s why they were called Islamic extremists. They love to kill Christians. Before, I saw a viral video on the internet how they beheaded Christian farmers. It happened somewhere in Jolo or Basilan. I’m not sure. Only one thing is for sure, it was a horrific show.
The ABUs are unorthodox fighters using their notorious whirlwind tactic. This kind of guerrilla tactic utilizes 2-3 fighters to engage the more superior government troops. They will fire at all sides towards their target. They move from one place to another and usually in an overlapping movement without a specific sector of fire. They are not scared of fratricide since they might even hit one another with this kind of tactic but they did this effectively. That’s why they called it a whirlwind. It’s totally unpredictable. As a result, the government troops will become static and forced to establish a hasty defensive battle positions. The ABUs can do this efficiently because they are masters of their own terrain. In fact, majority of them are natives of Jolo.
That moment, I realized all our training for the past months was not enough. I thought that there must be a change in our tactics.
It’s like a boxing. Boxers have different fighting styles. There are fighters who are called swarmers and sluggers. These kind of boxers always put pressure to their opponents. They always use their destructive power. They seize every momentum. They will never give their enemy a space to breathe. That’s how Manny Pacquiao fights. He goes toe to toe with his opponent until he wears him down.
Some fighters are counter-punchers like Juan Manuel Marquez. He fights scientifically and continuously studying his opponent’s move round by round then counter-punch him. Definitely, counter-punchers are cunning. That’s why JMM was able to knock out more powerful fighters like our very own Pacman.
Also, some are called the out-boxers. The most famous out-boxer is the undefeated Floyd Mayweather. He’s a very skilful fighter. He doesn’t fight toe to toe with his opponent. He uses the gap and makes points. He knows he doesn’t have a knock out power so he prefers to win by points. He uses all the advantage to destroy his opponent. He loves battle of attrition.
With this fighting analogy between combat and boxing, I categorized NPAs as counter-punchers and ABUs as sluggers/swarmers. Both of these groups can also become out-boxers.
Finally, our Commandant decided to make hasty changes. This will be the counter-punch to the enemy’s fighting style. We have to fight in a semi-conventional manner. Small unit operation in Abu Sayyaf’s lair is a suicide mission. For the first time, after all the Immediate Action Drills (IADs) that were extensively performed and mastered for several months, we shifted to semi-conventional formations. We will be moving in platoons rather than teams or sections.
On the second day of preparation, we practiced our movements in the field. Our Class was divided into two platoons and one section as reserve. One platoon is composed of two sections and a headquarters. Each section is composed of two teams. I was assigned as a Section leader. I handled two teams. I was the lead section of 1st Platoon.
It was a long day. We only had one day left to prepare. Time was ticking so fast.
(To be continued)