“We are the worst nightmare of the enemy,” Lieutenant Colonel Rapi told me while speaking of the Philippine Scout-Rangers when I met him at Special Operations Command at Fort Magsaysay. To find out why the Scout-Rangers are so formidable, I had to travel to the Philippines southernmost major island called Tawi-Tawi.

It was early in the morning, and everyone had been partying hard the night prior at the 2nd Marine Brigade activation anniversary party on Tawi-Tawi, but I had come all the way to the Philippines and was going to interview as many soldiers as I could before leaving. After a few rings, General Cirilito “Lito” Sobejana answered. I told him that I was already on my way to begin the ascent up the mountain which looked like that jungle crag that you see in the beginning of Indiana Jones.  Over beers the previous night, the former Scout-Ranger officer and I had promised to go to the top the following morning.

“Give me ten minutes, I’ll be right there,” Sobejana answered.

The General met me at the base of the mountain and we began to climb along with a small news crew from local the media who was also there for the activation anniversary. Currently the Sulu Task Force Commander, Sobejana had taken a Navy ship to Tawi-Tawi from Sulu to attend. I got the sense that he was enjoying a few minutes of relative relaxation, despite the squad of Philippine Marines to our front and bringing up the rear. Sobejana had been given a deadline by President Duterte to end Abu Sayyaf once and for all. It was tight to say the least as July was just a few months away. The national security advisor had then padded the timeline in true military fashion, giving Sobejana only until June to complete an impossible task.