MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Air Force has played a vital role in the Marawi siege.
The military unit is considered a game changer as it contributed a lot in killing terrorists through air strikes, among others.
“Without them, I believe we cannot really win Marawi City. It’s really a game changer. We saw that the Philippine Air Force played a very vital role in terms of turning tide and stealing the fear and the will to fight ng Maute ISIS ay na-destroy,” Western Mindanao Command Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said.
“Kung wala ang game changers ng Philippine Air Force, this siege may take longer, probably another 6 months because it would just be pure ground fighting (Without the game changers of the Philippine Air Force, this siege would have taken longer, probably another 6 months because it would just be pure ground fighting),” AFP Former Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said.
One of the pilots of UH-1H helicopters of the Philippine Airforce refused to face the camera because of security concerns.
He played a significant role in transporting wounded soldiers in the fight in Marawi City.
“Pagka naisakay sa chopper, nasa amin na ang buhay ng isang wounded. So ikaw bilang piloto, nandoon na ‘yung drive mo, hindi lang piloto, lahat ng air crew na nandoon sa chopper, kasama na ang medical team, paano niyo maisalba ang buhay noon na madagdagan pa buhay niya (When the wounded boards the chopper, his life is now in our hands. So as the pilot, the same goes for all the crew and medical team present, your drive should be there — save the wounded and extend his life),” said the UH-1H pilot.
The job of a forward air controller is another sensitive post. He is the direct contact of the pilot regarding the location of their enemies.
“As a controller on the ground, it is more dangerous because, before the delivery of the bomb, we are stationed at the minimum safe distance from the ammunition,” said, a forward controller who declined to be named.
A soldier who asked to be called “Blaster” also performed a crucial task in the fight as an explosive ordinance disposal personnel.
“Ginamit nila kami to reach the wall para sila maka-penetrate sa area. Kasi nagkaroon ng labanan na building to building ang pagitan. Ganoon ka-delikado(They used us to reach the wall to penetrate the area because a fight erupted that was building to building in distance. It was that dangerous),” Blaster said.
“Before papasok ang assault team ng army, kailangan ma-clear muna namin ang dadaanan nila(Before the army’s assault team enters, we should first clear their way),” he added.
The three soldiers were among the over 1,000 Philippine Air Force personnel who fought in Marawi.
Two hundred of the airmen who arrived earlier were given a Heroes’ Welcome in Villamor Air Base Pasay City.
The soldiers were given medals in recognition of their gallantry.
Not single personnel from the Air Force died in the five-month battle.
Meanwhile, the soldiers’ families are so thankful to finally reunite with them.
“Normal sa isang asawa mo sundalo, pangalawa lang kami. Kumbaga, iyon ang first priority niya (It’s normal for a wife of a soldier to take second place in his priorities. His duty is his first priority),” said Blaster’s wife.
“Nakakalungkot lang ang mga nawalan ng sundalo din, iyong mga namatay (It’s sad that some soldiers have been killed). Kaya sabi ko, salamat, hindi kasali ang asawa ko (That’s why I thought, ‘Thank God, my husband is not one of them’),” she added. – Rey Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue