On the last night of our preparation, I couldn’t sleep. I felt a lot of trepidation. It was 2100H. We needed to take a nap since we had to move out as early as 0100H the next day. Everybody seemed to be awake. I still heard voices rumbling inside the tents of my classmates. After a while, my buddy arrived with a military map of Jolo, Sulu. He borrowed it from PFC Benlot, our only classmate who was formerly assigned in that wretched island. I was curious because we were not yet formally briefed about the details of the Test Mission. I wanted to check the map so I instructed my buddy to produce one. All of a sudden, my original teammates went inside my tent. They were also curious. They’ve heard that PFC Navarra had a map of Jolo Island. My team was composed of 3 members from First Scout Ranger Regiment’s finest Battalions and another 3 including me came from Regular Infantry Battalions. I also had a teammate who was a member of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force or PNP-SAF.
SAF Commandos are one of the elite fighters of the PNP. They were deployed in hostile areas like their Philippine Army counterparts. They also conduct counter-insurgency operations. That’s why they send qualified SAF members to undergo SR Training to harness their skills in combat. The only remaining SAF member of our class was PO1 Bonifacio Bonghanoy. He was a member of my team. He was the only survivor of the whole squad. The rest of the squad either failed in subjects or resigned from the course. The SAF squad sent to SRTS was assigned in Metro Manila before they underwent the training.
I took out a pack of skag from my pocket and shared it to my teammates while we discussed extra preparations for the Test Mission. For the first time, my tent became a gas chamber. We were already authorized to skag anyway. That night, we all thought that our RI’s were also busy preparing their stuff. Eventually, we all seriously verified the map. The terrain looks adaptable compared to the areas where I’ve been formerly assigned. There are few mountainous areas. The island looks like a pile of sh%#!t from aerial view based on the map. It seems that as you go nearer to the center of the island, the elevation rises. While I was checking the contour lines, I could imagine the Abu Sayyaf waiting for us somewhere. I studied every single detail of the map and conducted initial terrain analysis.
I observed that there are few creeks in that island. Creeks are important water source for the soldiers conducting combat operations. You need to drink at least 5 Liters of water especially if the weather is hot and you have to walk more than 3 clicks every day. That means we will be doing a lot of water discipline. As a result, we all agreed to bring at least 5 liters of water using Coca-Cola plastic water bottles. We preferred using these empty bottles than water canteens because of expediency. Also, we were issued mini portable gas stoves for each squad. We would also bring at least 3 Liters of Kerosene. For every operation, we agreed to bring at least 7 days ration with 4 days wet and 3 days dry rations. Wet rations consist of rice and “rekados” for cooking while dry rations consist of Skyflakes biscuits and canned goods. Nobody slept that night.
We discussed everything from rations to supplies. We haven’t noticed that it was already time. “This is it!” I thought to myself. It was the climax of our Scout Ranger Training. We packed up and mounted M35 trucks. We moved out from SRTS then proceeded to Fort Magsaysay at Nueva Ecija. It’s still dark when we arrived at the airfield. The C130 was already waiting for us. We were all restless that day.
Time was finally ripe to test what we have learned from the portals of Camp Tecson.
(To be Continued)