Thirteen years of the anti-terrorism mission of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) ended when it was formally deactivated on Tuesday afternoon.
It was tasked to help assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines fight terrorism.
The deactivation was an offshoot of the drawdown of US forces as part of the realignment of the Pacific Assessment Team of the US Pacific Command.
Brown said while JSOTF-P formally closed, a new chapter of the US military’s partnership with local counterparts has opened as it continued the transition with some of its forward elements as liaisons.
“For almost 13 years the JSOTF-P has been proud of serving its counterpart with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police,” he said, citing the many successes despite a few communication setbacks.
However, Brown said a small number of US soldiers will be coming in as part of the transition to liaison to continue the cooperation.
“The number of personnel and the location may change but the nature of our partnership will remain steadfast,” he said.
The mission continues in a non-combat capacity, and some of their equipment will be shipped back while other facilities will be left inside the Westmincom camp, Brown said.
Brig. Gen. Orlando de Leon, deputy chief of Westmincom, said the command has a lot to be thankful for with the presence of the JSOTF-P, including the lives of the soldiers it saved through the medical evacuation and communities it helped.
“The bond that binds us together is the effort to eliminate terrorism,” he said. “We thank you for your soldiers who offered their supreme sacrifice in pursuit of the goals and the friendship we have.”
The deactivation ceremony was capped with the rolling and casing of the US JSOTF-P colors that represented its heritage, history and unity, and loyalty of thousands of its members that rendered their mission.
The US soldiers started their mission in 2002 with the 510th Enduring Freedom when they helped Filipino troops rescue kidnapped American couple Martin and Gracia Burnham from the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.
Martin was killed, while Gracia was rescued after almost two years in captivity, starting from Palawan to Basilan to the coast of Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.
The cooperation continued with the Balikatan 02-1 and later into JSOTF-P focusing on eliminating international terrorism and a mission to support the comprehensive approach of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police in a non-combat capacity to create a condition necessary for peace and stability in the region. (The Philippine Star)