Sunday, June 02, 2013

Brigadier General Daniel 'Dan' Lucero, 53: My tribute to an Army Idol

 Brigadier General Daniel Lucero, 53, is one of the 10 Outstanding Philippine Soldiers in 2011.Photo was taken during the visit of the TOPS 2011 Awardees in the House of Representatives. (TOPS photo)

The Army has lost a respected and seasoned field commander in the person of Brigadier General Daniel Lucero, 53. 

He collapsed after scuba diving at a beach in Tukuran town, Zamboanga del Sur at around 3:00 pm today (Sunday). 

He was pronounced dead upon reaching Mendero Hospital in Pagadian City. I could not ascertain the cause of his death. 

Col Renato Padua, his PMA classmate and my former Battalion Commander, said that Sir Dan had a heart problem that could be among the causes of his sudden death. 

He was saddened by the loss of his mistah, the first General in his class.

Hands-on leader

A hands-on leader, Sir Dan personally met the new graduates of PMA Class 2013 who reported for duty assignment in the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division that he commanded.

He accompanied them for a get together and reception ceremony at a beach in Tukuran town. 

A soft-spoken officer who had been to countless battles against terrorists and bandits in Southern Mindanao since his younger days, he was among the best officers the Army has ever produced. 

I once worked with him when I was the Company Commander of the 10th Scout Ranger Company in Basilan island in 2001 during which time he was also the commander of the 18th Infantry Battalion.

I won't forget the time when we met in Bgy Muh Buh, Tuburan town after my unit figured in a firefight with the Abu Sayyaf on February 25, 2002. 

I sensed that there might be more armed men from the MILF and MNLF who could join the firefight  unless we acted promptly. I needed some help from a larger force temporarily stationed just a kilometer away.

When I requested for blocking forces, he promptly heeded my request. 

There was no pintakasi (sympathetic attack) from the other armed groups nearby because of his immediate response. I was able to evacuate my wounded men safely.

When the smoke of the battle was clear, I conducted link-up operation with his unit and I was surprised to see then Lt Col Dan Lucero leading his men in the frontline!

In an earlier clash with the Abu Sayyaf in Danit Puntukan, Lamitan town on July 11, 2001, Sir Dan was with his men as we tried to encircle the group of Abu Sabaya who was holding captive American couple Martin and Grecia Burnham.

Amidst the volley of fires, I heard his calm voice directing his men to confront the Abu Sayyaf that would come their way.

 It was through his help that my unit killed Tuan Ben a.k.a. Abu Malaysia during a running gunbattle that ended at 5:00pm that day.

His unit had its own share of combat accomplishments during that time. 

The 18th IB was in fact adjudged as the Best Infantry Battalion of the Army in the succeeding year.

We regularly crossed paths because we were thrown into a new field of endeavor, civil-military operations. It seemed that I was following his foot steps and vice versa. 

He once served as a military spokesman in 2003-2004. I also held the same position in a different level in 2009-2012. 

He followed my footsteps when he was also adjudged as one of the Outstanding Philippine Soldiers in 2011.

I followed his path when I also served in the United Nations. He commanded the UN Peacekeeping force in Haiti. I served in Sudan as a military observer. 

He was also among those who were selected by the US embassy to explore CONUS under the International Visitors Leadership Program. Fortunately, I was also invited to participate in the same program in 2012. 

Later, he commanded the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Lanao del Sur province earning for him the rank of Brigadier General.

He was the first member of the PMA Class of 1983 to assume as Army Division Commander.

A well-rounded officer, he holds a Masters Degrees from the University of the Philippines. He obtained a degree in International Relations from the Australian National University.

It was early this year when we last met during the General Assembly of members of the International Visitors Program-Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo.

It was only last week when he sent me text message about our plans during the General Assembly of the TOPSOLDIERS, an organization of all TOPS awardees.

"See you in Manila Harold," was the last message I received from my idol.

I am very sad that he will be in a flag-draped coffin when he comes back very soon.

I lost one of my mentors l but his memories and legacy will remain in my heart forever.

These are the last photos that I have with General Dan Lucero during the meeting of International Visitors Program Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. (Photos by Elena Aben)

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