I sat across from a Light Reaction Regiment operator at a restaurant where we tried in vain to escape some of the humidity. He’s smoking a cigarette while we discuss his unit and their operations. He is a quiet man, quick to tell me that his job is to execute the mission rather than complain about the burden of his responsibilities and just as quick to credit other Special Operations and conventional forces for their contributions to the fight against the many threat groups facing the Philippine Armed Forces. When I ask about a rumor I had heard about his unit conducting a High Value Target strike mission disguised as a wedding procession he smiles a little bit. That’s when I know I’m on the right track.
In a previous interview I had talked to General Danilo Pamonag, the current Philippine SOCOM commander who also commanded the Light Reaction Regiment on two separate occasions. We had talked about how the human and geographical terrain of the Philippines makes for a difficult operational environment for their Special Operations units.
“The biggest challenge we have as special operators is how sneak into the operational area because every time we move out of our camp the civilians would always see us, hear the noise of our vehicles, and blood is thicker than water so they will try to pass on information that there is military going,” Pamonag said. Sometimes those passing on information are enemy agents, other times they are just family members communicating with one another, but either way the cat is out of the bag and word eventually gets to the enemy. “It is the hardest part of our mission, finding our enemy and putting our troops there undetected,” the SOCOM commander elaborated.
When the Light Reaction Regiment deploys by airplane or boat, they are often observed disembarking at the airport or the wharf. Within twenty-four hours, everyone knows that a new Special Operations Force is in town. Operators are airborne qualified, but they are hesitant to infiltrate the target area by parachute because they will also be noticed in the air and then the enemy will close around them. Meanwhile, those troops will have little access to mutually supporting fires from other units or air support. Helicopters over another alternative, but the noise of the rotor blades also tips off hostiles of incoming commandos.