Army Engineers: The Game-Changer in Marawi

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In the Philippines, the Army Engineers have been silent in performing their duties since most battles are guerilla warfare— such as encounters with the New People’s Army (NPA) on the mountains. The But last May 2017, an urban warfare happened in Marawi City. This time, the Army Engineers revealed their war fighting and strategic skills.

Whenever we hear of Marawi Siege, most people think it is all about: people fighting people, people losing their homes, destruction of properties, and death of several individuals. As we journey in this article, the Army Engineers will break the misconceptions about Marawi Siege and change your perspective to— people saving people, having a new home and re-establishing properties, and continuing to keep lives ensured. Just like a phoenix, Marawi will surely rise from the ashes.

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People saving people

The Combat Engineer Battalion is usually overlooked by the masses during war. In reality, they played a vital role in winning the battle in Marawi. Former Commanding General Glorioso Miranda even labelled them as “the game-changer.” They fight differently— through enabling the maneuver forces. Aside from giving assistance to civilians, Army Engineers also apply their capabilities by providing mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability support.

As one of the front liners, Army Engineers cleared rubble, mud, and other roadblocks to allow other units to pass through. They used demolition explosives to breach walls that will serve as the safe passage of the Army. This made the transition smooth as soldiers move from one place to another. Without them, it would take a lot time to forward the operation.

To provide counter-mobility support, they used explosives to block possible escape routes and destroyed the shelter of the enemy. They utilized heavy equipment to create obstacles to put the other party in disadvantage. This action also limited the territory and fields of fire of the enemy.

On the other hand, their survivability support continued as they protected and facilitated the movements of the troop to ensure their safety. They also constructed fighting and protective positions for personnel and equipment during operations. When necessary, combat engineers also fight as infantrymen.


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People having a new home and re-establishing properties

The Army Engineer Battalion is implementing projects in areas where civilian contractors cannot, due to security reasons. Since the first day of their deployment in Marawi City until November 2017, the Army Engineers were able to complete a total of 435 engineer missions in Joint Area of Operations (JAO). As of now, 1,603 temporary shelters were built and given but 6,400 transitory shelters more are needed to be built in this place. 2,747 families who reside along Agos River also need a permanent housing, and they already found a location.

In order to rehabilitate, several government agencies which include Armed Forces of the Philippines, formed the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM). Initial interventions involve price monitoring and enforcements, loans for small to medium enterprises, IDP products selling at trade fairs, assistance for agriculture, distribution of business starter kits, and livelihood and skills training programs.

Continuing to keep lives ensured

The Philippine Army gave their word to never stop in ensuring the security of the people even after the victory over the enemy. The Army Engineers continue in maintaining the main supply route (MSR), clearing the area from unexploded ordnance (UXO), and developing rear areas, including the places of worship and educational facilities. They found the locations of bombs. Most of it were already recovered and disposed. To ensure the safety of the citizens, the Army Engineers checked four times before marking a place as clear.

In the future, the Philippine Army is hoping for a complete return of internally displaced persons (IDP). By then, all evacuation centers will be closed since permanent houses are already constructed. They will also re-establish public schools and other establishments and make sure they are operational. The Philippine Army believes that this will help them move forward and be back in motion. Soon, the light will shine again on Marawi.

Knowing that there is a possibility for more incidents like this, the Army Engineers will not settle and be stagnant with what they have. They will continue to brace themselves to any possible incident through having extensive trainings, conferences and seminars. The sets of equipment are being upgraded, and the personnel are being improved. This is aligned to the primary purpose of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR): to transform into a better, more dynamic, more responsive, more capable, and more professional Army.

“Send us a message in any way. We, Engineers, will heed your call,” a part of the Philippine Army Engineer song. Truly, the Army Engineers do not just sing this song but remember it by heart and accomplish it as well. Breaking the passive mindset, this battle displayed what the Army Engineers can do. In this bittersweet battle, pain was felt, but victory was achieved. These heroes with a hammer broke the wall and opened the door towards victory to finally have peace and freedom once more.#

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