Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scout Rangers: The legend continues

By Maj. Harold Cabunoc (The Philippine Star) Updated November 26, 2011 12:00 AM 

CAMP TECSON, San Miguel, Bulacan--- Since its activation over six decades ago, the Army’s First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) has continuously produced a long list of heroes.

Trained and organized by the late General Rafael Ileto, the Rangers are the first elite military force in the country.
In 1955, Ileto rose to become the first commander of the striking force, which specializes in anti-guerilla warfare.

Since the Huk campaigns in the 1950s, the “Musangs” (local term for the Scout Rangers) had left an indelible mark in the Army’s operations.

Technical Sergeant Francisco Camacho and Corporal Weenee Martillana were among those who emerged as legendary warriors during that time.

They were both awarded the Medal for Valor after a successful combat mission behind enemy lines, which killed a notorious Huk leader in December 1955.

 In the 1970’s, the Scout Rangers were deployed to participate in the government’s campaigns against the secessionist groups in Sulu where they found themselves in the thick of the fight.

 During the Battle of Sibalu Hill on November 26, 1972, the Scout Rangers proved their tenacity in combat as they seized the heavily-fortified enemy camp together with a contingent of the Philippine Marines.

 In Central Mindanao, another group of Scout Rangers established themselves as a force to reckon with during a firefight with numerically superior enemy forces in 1974.   

 Led by 2nd Lieutenant Evelio Pugna, a 7-man team of Scout Rangers engaged a hundred strong rebels in the marshes of Libungan town, Cotabato. Through their exemplary skills in small-unit tactics, the ‘black panthers’ killed more than 40 rebels in a heavy fighting which raged for hours.

The most popular Scout Ranger that has existed is the legendary General Julius Javier, a native of Negros Occidental. His daring exploits and unsurpassed combat accomplishments earned for him the “Living Legend” monicker.

He had survived at least three ambuscades unscathed. People around him believed that he had an amulet that protected him from harm.

In December 1972, Javier and two others repulsed an overwhelming enemy force who ambushed the vehicle they were riding as they reinforced a unit of the Marines who suffered numerous casualties in a firefight.

He was the only one who was untouched by the whizzing bullets around them.

His two other buddies were wounded but were able to provide covering fire as he retrieved the others who were trapped in the middle of the engagement area.

Amidst the hail of bullets, Javier carried 6 of his severely wounded comrades one after the other out of the kill zone. He also retrieved all the firearms despite the continuous hail of enemy fire.

“We leave no one behind. It is a sacred SOP (standing operating procedure) among the Scout Rangers,” said Javier, whose reputation as an invincible warrior was cemented by that heroic feat.

                                                             Respected warriors

Javier was widely known not only for his notable battle successes but also his ability to win the fight without using violence. 

 He led a 7-man team of Rangers who infiltrated the communist-infested areas in Real town, Quezon in 1974. Approaching the bandits unnoticed, Javier captured 8 rebels with their firearms without firing a single shot.

We let them live out of respect for human life. Due to that incident, we left a lasting imprint in the minds of the enemies that the Rangers can reach them wherever they were,’ said Javier, who once served as a commanding general of the expanded First Scout Ranger Regiment.

 Operating in Basilan as a Battalion Commander in 1981, Javier received the most number of high-powered firearms when he convinced an MNLF commander to surrender with several of his followers.
Since then, the Scout Rangers earned the respect from the different rebel groups. The enemies knew that the Rangers do not hesitate to pull the trigger when necessary.

                                                             Modern heroes

Through the years, the Scout Rangers continue to live up to the expectations of the AFP and the country.

A number of Scout Rangers received the Medal for Valor Award, the highest award given to military personnel for conspicuous acts of courage and gallantry in combat.

Corporal  Romualdo C Rubi is among the distinguished living heroes.  Singlehandedly, he fought at least 100 heavily-armed communists terrorists in who attacked a military detachment in Claver, Surigao del Norte on March 18, 1991.

Undaunted by the overwhelming enemy force, he engaged the communist rebels in a firefight, killing several of them including the notorious bandit named Commander Lima.

Four years later, then Captain Cirilito E Sobejana of the 1st Scout Ranger Company was awarded the Medal for Valor after displaying his exemplary leadership and courage under intense enemy fire during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Basilan sometime in 1995.

Though wounded severely in his arm, Sobejana continued to inspire his men to outmaneuver the enemy thereby inflicting heavy casualties including 30 dead rebels.

In 1996,  Captain Robert Edward M Lucero, the  Commanding Officer of the 6th Scout Ranger Company received the same award while fighting the MILF rebels in Carmen town in Cotabato.

Known as ‘Bakal’ among his subordinates, Lucero was a fearless warrior who dared to confront numerically superior enemy forces in many occasions.

While defending the government’s infrastructure project in the area, Lucero paid the ultimate sacrifice but showed the finest traditions of Filipino soldiery.

Several other Scout Rangers earned the highest military award in the year 2000 onwards. During the attack on Camp Abubakar and the combat-rescue missions in Basilan, more “Black Panthers” gained prominence when they joined the elite list of living heroes.
While there remain hard-headed lawless elements who victimize hapless civilians, the Scout Rangers are there to protect them. As the cutting edge of the AFP, they are regularly sent to every trouble-spots around the archipelago.
                                                 Rangers Lead The Way

Aside from Javier, several Scout Ranger officers became prominent leaders in the AFP.

General Efren Abu, one of the heroes in southern Mindanao, became the Army Chief and later, AFP Chief of Staff.

Lieutenant General Jesse Dellosa, a veteran of Sulu and Basilan, currently heads the Northern Luzon Command.

Lieutenant General Roland Detabali, who led the 1st Scout Ranger Company in several decisive battles against communist rebels in Northern Luzon, is the incumbent Commander of the Southern Luzon Command.

Major General Noel Coballes, a distinguished combat officer since his younger years, is the Commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur.

The newly-installed Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Major General Emmanuel Bautista, is also known as the hero of Nava.

As a young captain, he led a 14-man Scout Rangers belonging to the 7th Scout Ranger Company which battled a hundred of communist rebels in Nava village, Hinulangan town in Leyte.

Despite being outnumbered, Bautista effectively dictated the situation due to his outstanding combat leadership. The enemies suffered several casualties including 50 rebels killed, forcing them to withdrew in disarray.

The rebels were flushed out of the communities freeing the people from the heavy burdens of paying extortion money to the oppressive bandits.

On November 25, 2011, the First Scout Ranger Regiment embarks into another major milestone as it celebrates its 61st Founding Anniversary in its new home in Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Several of the living heroes and warrior leaders, including the new Army Chief, are expected at the event.

(This article is published by the Philippine Star today, November 26, 2011. Please see

 The awardees pose for a souvenir photo with NOLCOM Chief Lt General Jesse Dellosa, Army Chief Major General Emmanuel Bautista, DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and "Living Legend" General Julius Javier (7th-10th from left respectively) during the 61st Founding Anniversary of the First Scout Ranger Regiment on November 25, 2011. The 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, which was once commanded by Sec Gazmin, was adjudged as the Best Scout Ranger Battalion; and, Sgt Sabellina, a candidate for the Medal for Valor Award for his combat actions in Davao Oriental a few months ago, was the Best Enlisted Personnel (Photo by Sgt Joey Baniatan, SR Class 150-2002).

(Note:  I am indebted to Ranger Fortune, former CO of 2SRC, and the researchers of the Army Public Affairs Office for the data that I used in the article)

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