THE troops of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion (SRB), an elite force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), were greeted with loud cheers and applause as Dabawenyos chanted “Bayani!” during the heroes' welcome held at the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) headquarters in Davao City on Thursday.
The soldiers returned after their five-month deployment in war-torn Marawi City.
Early Thursday morning, Dabawenyos flocked on the side of the streets with flowers and Philippine flaglets as they waited the arrival of the soldiers.
According to the battalion commander, whose name is withheld, in his report, said there were 194 enlisted personnel and 18 officers who returned out of the over 250 who were deployed to Marawi.
There were also nine killed-in-action and a total of 125 wounded-in-action soldiers.
The 2nd SRB were initially assigned in Sulu for the all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf Group and are supposed to return last June but when the siege in Marawi City broke out, their assignment was extended.
As promised by outgoing AFP chief-of-staff General Eduardo Año, the battalion under the operational command of Eastmincom was recalled.
In his message, Eastmincom deputy commander Perfecto Rimando Jr. thanked and lauded the troops for their bravery and heroic deeds in fighting the terrorist group and defend the people and the republic.
“On behalf of the grateful nation, I couldn’t be happier and more proud to finally greet all of you especially the members of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion. Welcome home my buddies!” Brigadier General Rimando said.
The troops also offered prayer for the nine soldiers who were killed during the battle.
“The misfortunes and melancholic reflection after the chaotic event in Marawi City will always be in our hearts and mind of our comrades, your families and our communities who spared lives at the expense of our own,” he said.
He added, “Some of your comrades even perished serving lives in the name of service for peace and development. Nonetheless, the command believes that your efforts have paid off, our comrades sacrifices were not turned futile.”
Rimando underscored the great contribution of the soldiers in the attainment of peace and restoration of normalcy in Marawi City that made the government forces as “a source of national pride” and the whole country will be grateful for their gallantry.
“Let me once again say this, no recognition is fitting, no tributes sufficient and no credits suitable enough to compensate the sacrifices you have done in the field of battle,” he said.
However, he reminded the troops that the battle and their job had not ended as they have to remain vigilant and alert for possible threats that the armed forces will be facing in the future.
The crisis has also taught the country a lesson of teamwork and unity that also raised awareness on the importance of peace in the community as they will “continue to firmly commit ourselves to the service with honor, service and patriotism.”
“With this, I urged everyone to sustain the gains and continue to live by the highest standard of professionalism and the service that expected of us,” he said.
Meanwhile, in behalf of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) head Benito de Leon said that the presence of the elite force in Eastern Mindanao will further secure not only Davao City but also the whole Davao region against security threats.
“As indeed materialized, ang pinaka topnotch na pwersa ng ating sandatahang lakas dinala na ngayon dito sa area ng Davao ng saganon matugonan ang ating problema sa seguridad and with your presence, I am sure, we’ll go a long way in deterring and having a psychological impact on the terrorist knowing fully well that your group had featured and had long experiences in the main battle area of the terrorist haven of Marawi,” De Leon said.
Eastmincom spokesperson Major Ezra Balagtey said that these troops underwent debriefing process before they returned here.
He added that they will be deployed in different military units under Eastmincom not only in Davao region.
In an interview with one of the scout rangers whose name was also withheld, he said that he was very grateful that he come back alive and not inside the coffin.
“Hindi naming masabi ang nararamdaman namin saya ngayon kasi malapit na naming makita ang pamilya namin,” the Master Sergeant said.
He shared that they were assigned in Marawi City a day after the attack happened on May 24. He has not told his family yet that he was already back in Davao and he is excited to return home in Laguna to finally see his family and also his newly-born child who was delivered last month.
With the support that the Filipinos have given to the troops, he said they were inspired to go an extra mile to expedite the resolution of the armed conflict.
In his 22 years in the service, he cited that it was his first time to encounter a President who went to the battle ground to give support and inspire them.
“Siya lang ang nakita kong Presidente na nakita ko na yong supporta niya nasa AFP para din kami walang takot,” he said.