By Martin Sadongdong
PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija — The capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in retaking an airfield overran by the enemies, and operating on an urban terrain was the highlight of the on-going DAGIT-PA joint exercises 2019 here at Fort Magsaysay on Monday.
The first phase of the event included an 8,000-feet free fall by members of the Philippine Marines and Special Operations Command (AFP-SOCom) from military helicopters.
The soldiers, acting as assaulters, were tasked to eliminate “enemy” snipers and observers that served as the first line of defense of the hostile force on the airfield of Fort Magsaysay.
After the initial phase, what followed was an intense gun-battle simulation between the enemies and the Special Operations Wing of the Philippine Air Force who had to take hold of a control tower located deep within the enemy’s base.
Primary forces, composed of Army’s one Infantry Company aboard a separate military aircraft, were then able to land on the airfield with the help of the control tower manned by allied forces as they went on to secure the air strip.
Meanwhile, one Mechanized Infantry and one Infantry Company retook and cleared an urban area which was initially under the enemies’ control, and full of explosives and booby traps.
The scenario and setting were all too familiar. After all, the organizers of the exercises patterned it after one of, if not the deadliest human conflict in the recent history of the Philippines — the Marawi siege.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Sonny Dungca, Education and Training officer of the Army’s Special Operations Command (SoCom), the airfield seizure and military operation on urban terrain (MOUT) showcased the enhanced interoperability of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
“What triggered us here at the SoCom to conduct an exercise like this were the recent crises that we faced such as the Zamboanga siege and the Marawi siege in 2017,” Dungca shared.
In the said crises, joint military units of the Army, Navy and Air Force were deployed to eliminate threats from local and terrorist groups.
“We must be interoperable, nagkakaintindihan dapat ang tatlong major services. We were also able to exchange expertise kasi kanya kanya naman ang aming specialization,” Dungca said.
“Bago tayo magrely sa iba, magrely muna tayo sa sarili natin. Wala naman ibang magtatanggol sa bansa natin kundi tayo. It is high time na makita ng tao na ang AFP natin can work as one,” he stressed.
Finally, all roads led to a nipa village where a platoon of Scout Rangers, Marines and combat engineers raided the enemy leadership’s encampment.
DAGIT-PA, which stands for “dagat,” “langit” and “lupa,” is the first AFP-wide military exercise aimed at enhancing the interoperability during joint operations of its three major services. It started last September 16 and will end on September 27.
More than 1,500 soldiers including reservists and selected AFP-wide support and separate units were participating in this year’s joint exercises.
DAGIT-PA was dubbed as the Filipino version of Balikatan exercises being done annually by the AFP and US military.