By Francis Wakefield
The commanding general of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said the service command spent some P1.44 billion in the war against terrorists in Marawi City.
In a speech he delivered during the heroes welcome ceremony hosted by the PAF to its personnel held at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City yesterday, Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr., said at least 1,007 airmen involved in the offensive to defeat Daesh-inspired Maute terrorists comprised of pilots, forward air controllers, and support personnel accomplished 1,358 sorties and flown a total of 4,950 hours.
Kintanar also said a total of 6,716 soldiers and policemen were transported while hundreds of wounded were extricated and evacuated out of harm’s way, during the five-month war.
“Beyond these figures are stories of gallantry, bravery, boldness, daring and sacrifice. Some of our comrades’ stories will be written and retold, some will be heard, and some will fall into oblivion,” Kintanar said.
“But the powerful imagery etched in the minds of our people is these aircraft that dominated the air. And the memories that will be forever embedded in our history – in the advent of social, print and news media — will be the valiant airmen, soldiers and marines who joined forces together and responded to the call of duty for the past five months.”
“Some of our comrades have fallen and offered their supreme sacrifice; in a brief moment of silence we honor and salute them today – heroes all who brought victory and liberated Marawi,” he added.
In the same speech, Kintanar said the occasion is also significant in the sense that this is the first time that a good representation of their airmen who were directly involved in combat and combat support in the liberation of Marawi are meeting eye-to-eye, joining shoulder-to-shoulder, and grouped together as one resilient team.
“Today, we give them honor, we pay them tribute, and as a fulfilled Air Force, we bask in their hard-earned contribution to victory,” Kintanar said.
Kintanar said that if he was to make a good accounting of the Air Force assets used, a fair representation of the majority can be found right inside Villamor Air Base.
“These airmen demonstrated airpower that was felt, seen and used 24/7, whenever, wherever. They symbolize the Air Force at its finest hour, and the airmen at their greatest defining moment in recent memory. In the air campaign, we have our pilots and aircraft: the game changers such as FA-50s and the AW-109s, the sharpest tip of our airpower spear,” Kintanar said.
“We have the classic OV-10 Broncos, the MG-520 Defenders and the SF-260 Warriors providing close air support. We have the ubiquitous and sturdy UH-1 Hueys, the Bell-412 combat utility helicopters and the Sokols for tactical air mobility, rescue and case evacuation.”
“The C-130s and the C-295s that transported close to 7,000 soldiers and marines to the battle space. On the ground, we have the Philippine Forward Air Controllers or the PFACs, the EOD specialists, the snipers, combat engineers, the maintenance crew, the medics and the mobile kitchen staff. All of them were at the vicinity of the main battle area as part of Team AFP,” he said.
Kintanar said the well-earned accomplishments as an Air Force in Marawi are the handiwork of brilliant, inspirational and exemplary military leaders who employed airpower when needed, where needed.
“These warrior leaders are with us today; we honor and thank them as well,” he said.
Among those who attended the heroes welcome include former Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo M Año, Army chief Lieutenant General Rolando Joselito Bautista, AFP Western Mindanao Command chief and Major General Danilo Pamonag, the Commander of the Special Operations Command and Joint Task Force “Trident”.