Just four months after 9/11 and weeks after the American invasion of Afghanistan, a second front in the Global War on Terror was quietly opened in the Far East.
The Philippines, America’s traditional ally, was in mortal peril of losing the Southern portion of the Archipelago to the radical forces of Abu Sayaf, the Philippine version of Al-Qaeda. American Special Operation Forces, with minimal fanfare, quietly deployed to the region to turn the tide against terrorism.
Employing classic Special Forces protocols which deny Abu Sayaf to the local villages, the teams began to develop unconventional force multipliers which dramatically increased the combat power of the 6 man team. Rick Orlando, now part of CASS Global, was in overall charge.
Over a period of months, using techniques very similar to what CASS Global currently employs in North Africa, the initial wariness of the local populace was transformed into an attitude of outright assistance and support.
The photographic chronology of events tells it best.
The first step was to identify and interact with the village elders, and identify local infrastructure needs. During this first face to face it was supremely important for the team to have the ability to converse in Tagalog, the local lingua franca, in order not to be thought of as a “foreigner”. Here then Warrant Officer Orlando is setting the stage for the first meeting.
Upon conclusion of the discussion, collective sentiment deemed that a nearby creek, which could reach torrential status during the monsoon, was to have a bridge built over it.
The challenge was now to begin, for the teams, much like CASS Global, needed to advance down a number of paths simultaneously.
To encourage local support it was necessary to live among them and to be clearly identified as being a valuable resource in terms of what the team brought the community. A two pronged approach was developed.
The first was setting up a remote medical facility, something which the locals had never been previously exposed to. Having said that the team was always on guard for infiltrators, hence the pistol always a second away.
The next phase was to boost the command presence of the Philippine Army detachment which was based nearby. This was done via cross training on an individual basis
And by the inclusion of the Philippine Army engineers who were tasked to help construct the bridge and thus raise the level of awareness among the local population that the Army represented stability.
As the weeks quickly passed, significant inroads were made against Abu Sayaf, who were rapidly losing support in their quest for hard line Islam. However, as CASS Global will also attest to, there comes a point when it is necessary to clearly identify disruptive elements who will NEVER negotiate or change, and take appropriate action.
In this case, Rick and his team deemed that the next logical step in securing the area was the outright elimination of hard core Abu Sayaf cells who were staging murderous strikes on the locals from bases located deep in the jungle.
To that end, direct action combat missions were planned……
Mounted in conjunction with Philippine Army forces……
And successfully prosecuted deep in the jungle, ending in the local eradication of Abu Sayef……
However, one last detail remained…..
The new bridge was successfully completed, and the village would never again have to endure the misery of fording roaring torrents during the monsoon. For Rick, the most memorable moment came that night when he watched a young Filipino boy take his bike and cross the bridge over and over again…..
Wisdom Accrued for CASS Global Operations?
Any security operation must strike the correct balance between offensive and defensive operations. We must ALWAYS consider the final recipient (in this case the villagers) and base our operations around that premise. It’s not such a great thing if your client wins the short term battle but winds up losing the long term war. My experience has instilled in me that drive to consider the law of unintended consequence and to have the ability to peruse an issue from multiple points of view. In so doing CASS Global is able to dissect issues on multiple levels which is a petri dish for creative thinking and problem resolution. By having a multiplicity of backgrounds and mindsets I think we are better prepared for the unexpected because invariably one of us has been down that particular road at some point in the past.
Balance is critical. If you don’t have it you fall down.